2022 Race

Lula sidelines Dilma Rousseff, panders to possible running mate

dilma lula
Former Presidents Dilma Rousseff and Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, in March 2016. Photo: Ichiro Guerra/PR

During an interview to a radio station in São Paulo state, former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva — who leads all polls ahead of the 2022 election — suggested that his successor, Dilma Rousseff, will not have a place in his administration if he were to win.

“We won’t recreate the 2003 cabinet [when Ms. Rousseff was appointed Mines and Energy Minister]. Time has passed, there are a lot of young folks around,” he said. “[Ms. Rousseff] is extraordinarily capable, but I think she is lacking when it comes to the art of politics.”

Ms. Rousseff was handpicked by Lula to succeed him in 2011 and served as president until she was impeached by Congress in 2016. Her administration combined poor economic management with a lack of political acumen, which alienated Congress and made the president wildly unpopular as Brazil plunged into what was, at the time, its worst recession on record. Rivals are set to use Lula’s links to the Rousseff administration against him.

Lula can’t turn on Ms. Rousseff, but he is carefully keeping her at arm’s length in order to not have her unpopularity rub off on him. In a recent op-ed in newspaper Folha de S.Paulo, his former Finance Minister talked about the Workers’ Party’s accomplishments in government — omitting the Rousseff era.

In the same interview, Lula praised former São Paulo Governor Geraldo Alckmin, the conservative figure he is courting to be his running mate. The former president said his vice president would have an active role in the government and participate in key decisions.

That was another problem with Ms. Rousseff, who treated her running mate Michel Temer as a “decorative VP,” in his words. When her popularity waned, Mr. Temer quickly began conspiring to have her removed and take the top office for himself.