Brazil's top electoral court, TSE, on early Saturday ended the political comeback plans of former president Lula da Silva, barring him from running in elections in October. Lula is in prison having been sentenced to twelve years for corruption last April.
The six to one vote denied the request to register the popular politician, who is comfortably leading opinion polls, and also banned Lula da Silva from advertising on radio and television, as the electoral campaign period takes off September first.
His defense has ten days to appeal the TSE sentence and could also attempt to make a presentation before the Supreme Court, or Supreme Federal Tribunal.
The former president claims he is innocent and the conviction is part of a political ploy designed to keep him out of the election. This comes in spite of repeated rulings by Brazil’s court system that he was guilty of accepting favors from construction companies that had dealings with the national oil company Petrobras.
The sentence means that Lula da Silva's current vice president candidate, Fernando Haddad, ex Sao Paulo mayor, will head the PT presidential slate having Manuela D'Avila, a deputy from the Brazilian Communist Party as his running companion following on an earlier accord between the two political groups.
We are facing a very simple operation of applying an unequivocally clear law that consecrates the ineligibility of someone who has been convicted, said the lead judge on the case, Luís Roberto Barroso. I declare the ineligibility of the candidate.
The decision promises to further complicate what is already the most unpredictable election in the recent history of South America’s largest economy. The next Brazilian president will need to implement reforms to help an economy still struggling to emerge from recession and resolve a crippling budget deficit that is threatening the country’s long-term solvency.
Lula da Silva was registered by his Workers’ party, PT, as its candidate for this year's election in spite of a clean slate law that forbids people who have had a criminal conviction upheld on appeal from running for public office.
Recent polls showed him potentially transferring votes to his likely replacement, Fernando Haddad, giving the economist and former São Paulo mayor a strong chance in the election.
In the latest Datafolha poll, 49% of respondents said they would or might vote for a candidate anointed by Lula da Silva.
Outside the jail where Lula is locked up in the southern city of Curitiba, supporters gathered earlier in the evening for a vigil, lighting candles and holding placards reading Free Lula.
Following the midnight decision PT made public a release complaining that the TSE sentence rejecting Lula da Silva's candidacy was a political cassation, based on lies and arbitrary arguments, just like in the time of the dictatorship.
Despite the violence of the decision barring Lula, PT will continue fighting by all means to ensure Lula's candidacy, and anticipated it will be presenting before all the courts to have Lula's political rights, as established by law and international agreements ratified by Brazil, recognized.
The former president defense's team argued that the TSE must follow on the United Nations Human Rights Commission statement recommending that Lula be allowed to participate in the coming October election.
However Brazil's Attorney General Raquel Dodge said that the UN Human Rights Commission recommendation could not be applied in this case, since Brazil never promulgated the international accord which mandates submission to that UN body.
It was the defense of human rights that motivated the Clean Slate bill in first place. It was a citizenship initiative, following massive demonstrations of the civil society, approved by Congress and sanctioned by then president Lula da Silva, said Dodge.
The Attorney General added that the Clean Slate bill supports democracy and good governance, and this specific case, contrary to violating fundamental rights, it protects them”.