Without Lula, the Workers' Party must go with Fernando Haddad

In the most uncertain election in Brazilian democratic history, few things were as clear as the fact that former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva would be barred from running for a third term. Since January, when the Federal Appellate Court of the 4th Region confirmed his conviction for passive corruption and money laundering, increasing his sentence to 12 years in prison, it was clear that the Clean Slate law, which bars candidates with multiple convictions from taking office, would stand in Lula’s way.

The Superior Electoral Court’s decision was the epilogue of a clash between Lula and the Justice system that began on March 4, 2016, when Federal Police marshals conducted a search and seizure operation in Lula’s apartment – and forcefully took him in for questioning. It was then that Lula formally announced himself as a candidate for president in 2018, saying he would “travel the country” and that he was still (politically) alive.

</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Facing enormous difficulty to defend himself in courts of law (he and his party accuse the judges and prosecutors of pursuing a witch hunt), Lula opted for a full-scale confrontation. He galvanized his supporters around the idea that he is a victim of an unfair Justice system, biased against him and the Workers&#8217; Party. It worked to perfection. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In March 2016, Lula had 17 percent of </span><a href="https://brazilian.report/power/2018/08/22/main-polls-brazil-presidential-race/"><span style="font-weight: 400;">voting intentions</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, almost half of Marina Silva&#8217;s 23 percent. Meanwhile, he was rejected by 57 percent of voters. Now, the tables have turned. At last count, Lula&#8217;s voting intentions stood at 39 percent &#8211; and his rejection rate at 34 percent, the lowest it has been in years.</span></p> <h2>The Workers&#8217; Party strategy now</h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Now, the party&#8217;s strategy must be changed. There isn&#8217;t much time to groom former São Paulo mayor Fernando Haddad as Lula&#8217;s replacement. The Electoral Justice system has said Lula can no longer appear as a candidate on television and radio ads. Party chairperson Gleisi Hoffmann wants the party to insist on Lula&#8217;s right to run, exhausting all possible appeals at the Supreme Court.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">But that could backfire. Election Day is in just over a month, on October 7, and losing exposure time for Mr. Haddad could be crucial &#8211; as he remains unknown to most of the electorate, especially in the northeast (the Workers&#8217; Party stronghold), where some of the locals know him as &#8220;Andrade.&#8221; </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">It is worth mentioning that Ms. Hoffmann&#8217;s resistance to Mr. Haddad has personal motivations. She is a highly contested chairperson within the party itself, and if Mr. Haddad has a successful run, he would become the party&#8217;s main leader outside of prison. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Unless the Workers&#8217; Party commits terrible mistakes, it appears likely that Mr. Haddad will reach the second round of the election. Lula is very strong in the northeast, as his administration is associated with a time of prosperity &#8211; which has been lost in recent years. Lula is allowed to make cameo appearances in Mr. Haddad&#8217;s ads (up to 25% of the total runtime) which could be enough to work his kingmaking skills.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In the second round, however, all bets are off. It&#8217;s a new election, with candidates having the same amount of airtime on television and radio &#8211; and 20 days to campaign. While Lula remains the most popular politician in Brazil, he is also the country&#8217;s most divisive &#8211; his rejection rates, albeit smaller than in previous years, are still only smaller than those of far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The Workers&#8217; Party&#8217;s best chance of winning could be against Mr. Bolsonaro. However, the far-right&#8217;s </span><a href="https://brazilian.report/2017/10/31/2018-election-brazil-extreme-right/"><span style="font-weight: 400;">best chance</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> of winning is also against Lula&#8217;s party.

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OpinionSep 01, 2018

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BY Gustavo Ribeiro

Gustavo is the founder of The Brazilian Report, and is an award-winning journalist with experience covering Brazilian politics and international affairs. His work has been featured across Brazilian and French media outlets.