Workers' Party candidate Fernando Haddad

Just a few weeks ago, voters from the countryside of Bahia commented that they would vote for “Andrade,” or “the young man from São Paulo, Lula’s guy.” “Andrade” is, of course, Fernando Haddad, the former mayor of São Paulo who replaced Lula in the presidential race and faces off against far-right Jair Bolsonaro for the Brazilian presidency.  

Fernando Haddad was born in São Paulo, on January 25, 1963. His father was a merchant and his mother, a teacher and housewife. In 1981, he entered Law School at the University of São Paulo (USP), working as a salesman in his father’s fabric store after lectures. Once graduated, Haddad worked as an investment analyst and a consultant. He became a professor of political theory at his alma mater after receiving a master’s degree in political economy and a doctorate in philosophy.

Entering public life

His debut as a public servant came in 2001, in the city of São Paulo. He was chief of staff at the Secretariat of Finance and Economic Development during Marta Suplicy’s only term as mayor. It didn’t take long, though, for him to be called up to the federal government once Lula won the presidency in 2002. In 2004, he was assigned the executive secretary in the Ministry of Education. When the Mensalão scandal hit Lula’s government, Haddad was promoted to Minister of Education after his predecessor, Tarso Genro, became the Workers’ Party chairperson. During his time in the cabinet, Fernando Haddad started to get noticed nationally.

Under his command, the ministry created the ProUni (a program that grants university scholarships to low-income students), expanded student financing for higher education (through Fies), created the Basic Education Development Fund, and reformulated the national university entrance exam (Enem). Those achievements, however, did not protect him from criticism. In 2009, the Enem was leaked before exam day, and federal authorities said that Fies did not increase the number of students in universities.

Haddad’s experience as a senior officer, however, qualified him to be nominated as the Workers Party’s candidate for the São Paulo mayoral race. He was personally anointed by Lula to try to grab the largest and most important city in Brazil. And he lived up to the expectations even without any previous electoral experience. The former minister took on veteran social-democrat José Serra, a former governor of the state of São Paulo, and beat him in a run-off to be elected mayor in 2012.

Mayor Fernando Haddad

What seemed like a promising career managing one of the world’s largest metropoles turned out to be a sour experience. In his first year, Haddad faced widespread protests that began by demanding the lowering of public transportation fares and ended as a revolt against politicians in general. Dilma Rousseff’s impeachment did not help his image and his plans for reelection in 2016. Haddad lost to social-democrat João Dória in the first round.

While in office, Haddad managed to expand the city’s bicycle pathways from almost nothing to more than 400 km. He also expanded bus lanes, thus favoring public transportation, and reduced speed limits to lower the number of accidents (which was a successful measure). During this term, he created the office of Municipal General Comptroller, an institution that oversees public spending in the city of São Paulo. After fierce negotiations with the federal government, he also managed to reduce the city’s debt by half. Currently, the former mayor is being investigated for misconduct in office for the implementation of bike lanes and for involvement in Operation Car Wash. The lawsuits are in their initial stages.

Fernando Haddad has a member of the Workers Party since 1983 but was never a major player in internal party politics. Until this year, he was affiliated with a minority wing of the party called Mensagem ao Partido. Then, in order to get even closer to Lula, he joined the former president’s wing (Construindo Um Novo Brasil, or CNB). Once Lula was barred from being the Workers’ Party candidate, Haddad was nominated to substitute him.

Now, he has the herculean task of defeating all odds and winning the presidency back for Lula’s party.

PowerOct 14, 2018

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BY Diogo Rodriguez

Rodriguez is a social scientist and journalist based in São Paulo.