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Montevideo, November 13th 2018 - 00:34 UTC

Despite jail sentence, Lula nominated candidate for October's presidential election

Sunday, August 5th 2018 - 11:35 UTC
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In a message from Lula read to the party convention in Sao Paulo, he said, “Brazil needs to restore its democracy” In a message from Lula read to the party convention in Sao Paulo, he said, “Brazil needs to restore its democracy”
Three big party conventions were held on Saturday, two months before the first round of voting on October 7 in Latin America's dominant economy. Three big party conventions were held on Saturday, two months before the first round of voting on October 7 in Latin America's dominant economy.
In Brasilia, center-left environmental campaigner Marina Silva was crowned by her Rede party In Brasilia, center-left environmental campaigner Marina Silva was crowned by her Rede party
Former Sao Paulo governor and establishment heavyweight Geraldo Alckmin secured the nod from the center-right Brazilian Social Democratic Party, or PSDB Former Sao Paulo governor and establishment heavyweight Geraldo Alckmin secured the nod from the center-right Brazilian Social Democratic Party, or PSDB

Brazil's leftist Workers' Party nominated its charismatic founder Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva for the upcoming presidential contest on Saturday despite him being imprisoned for corruption. In a message from Lula read to the party convention in Sao Paulo, he said, “Brazil needs to restore its democracy.” Although serving a 12-year sentence for corruption, Lula, 72, remains by far the frontrunner in opinion polls.

 Three big party conventions were held on Saturday, two months before the first round of voting on October 7 in Latin America's dominant economy.

In Brasilia, center-left environmental campaigner Marina Silva was crowned by her Rede party. Also in the capital, former Sao Paulo governor and establishment heavyweight Geraldo Alckmin secured the nod from the center-right Brazilian Social Democratic Party, or PSDB.

“Go Brazil, Geraldo for president!” about 1,000 supporters chanted before Alckmin, 65, was nominated in an almost unanimous vote.

But while both Silva and Alckmin are serious contenders in a likely match-up against controversial right-winger Jair Bolsonaro, it was Lula's highly unusual convention in Sao Paulo that overshadowed proceedings.

Lula is in prison in the southern city of Curitiba, serving a 12-year sentence for corruption and likely to be barred from the ballot.

But his Workers' Party issued a call to arms, casting Lula as a victim of a rigged case and vowing to get him back into office, following his largely popular two terms from 2003-2010.

In the Sao Paulo convention center, some 2,000 attendees donned Lula masks and chanted his name. Then, after fiery speeches from Lula's senior allies, the party faithful heard the leader's words -- read out by an actor.

“They want to scrap the people's right to choose the president,” the message said. “They want to create a democracy without the people. We have an enormous responsibility ahead.”

Supporters have one remarkable factor on their side: despite his imprisonment and the corruption scandal, Lula remains far ahead in the polls.

Surveys show him with near double the support of all other main candidates in a first round, crushing any runner-up in the second decisive round two weeks later.

Lula is waiting for final court judgment on whether he can run and it doesn't look good: under current law anyone losing an appeal of a criminal conviction is not allowed on the ballot.

So despite the leftist leader's almost cult-like backing, there was close attention being paid to the Workers' Party choice for vice president -- a figure who could end up standing in for the imprisoned leader.

One high-profile possibility is former Sao Paulo mayor Fernando Haddad. A powerful politician, he has signed on to Lula's legal team, giving him easy access to the prison, and he would be well placed to inherit Lula's electorate.

But the party appears to be torn, with some fearful of any move that might suggest giving up on the main goal of somehow getting Lula back into the presidential palace. Despite expectations that the issue might be resolved at the convention, no announcement was made.

Alckmin has already named Senator Ana Amelia, who is expected to help him in the south of the country and eat into conservative support for Bolsonaro. And if Alckmin has gone for a female VP, Silva, 60, has struck a pact with a man, Eduardo Jorge, from Brazil's Green Party.

Bolsonaro, who has positioned himself as a radical right-winger appealing to Brazilians' fury over crime and corruption, has yet to find his running mate. Names thrown around in Brazilian media reports have included a former astronaut, a member of the royal family and a general.

The problem facing all candidates is the level of voter disgust and apathy.

Two polls show that in some states up to 41% of voters are undecided or not participating in an election that doesn't include Lula. If Lula was on the ballot, that number would drop but still account for about a quarter of voters.

Top Comments

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  • Cheshire_Cat

    What a sad freakshow! The worst part is that they are giving ammunition to the Brazilian far right. Bolsonaro is second in the polls after Lula. That can't bode well for Brazil. Stuck between a corrupt leftist and a fascist buffoon.

    Aug 05th, 2018 - 10:29 pm 0
  • golfcronie

    it is their country and they have to live with whoever they vote in power, God help them.

    Aug 06th, 2018 - 01:55 pm 0
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