Brazil's Workers Party, PT, said on Saturday that it's sticking with former president Lula da Silva as its presidential candidate even though the electoral court has thrown him off the ballot for an election just five weeks away.
Lula's vice presidential running mate, former Sao Paulo Mayor Fernando Haddad told reporters the Workers Party will continue pushing to somehow get Lula, who is leading in the polls, back on the ballot.
The people are sovereign regarding the party's candidate. And that candidate is Lula, Haddad said.
That strategy would keep Lula da Silva in the spotlight until the absolute last minute, perhaps rallying support from backers that could then be transferred to a stand-in, likely Haddad, who is much less popular or charismatic.
The electoral court voted 6-1 early Saturday to reject Lula's candidacy because of a corruption conviction that has been upheld on appeal. Lula and the party are appealing both the conviction and the electoral court ruling.
The ruling had been widely expected and there were no immediate street protests of the sort that occurred when the former president was initially arrested.
Lula da Silva who was wildly popular when he left office on January 2011, is now a sharply polarizing figure. Many Brazilians still revere him for pulling millions from poverty during his eight years in power.
But he and the Workers' Party have lost much of that appeal over the last several years due to a stumbling economy under his hand-picked successor Dilma Rousseff and a sprawling corruption probe that has ensnared many top businessmen and politicians, including da Silva.
The former president is serving a 12-year-sentence for corruption and money laundering after being convicted of trading favors with construction company Grupo OAS in exchange for the promise of a beach house apartment.
As part of the ruling, Justice Luis Roberto Barroso said the Workers' Party should replace Lula da Silva within 10 days, and that he should not appear as a presidential candidate in free airtime that is given to political parties on nationwide TV and radio.
However the party used the first day of free campaign TV airtime on Saturday to denounce the electoral court ruling in a spot that featured filed footage of da Silva.