Brazil’s presidential election is up for grabs, according to the latest public opinion poll, with popular ex-president Lula da Silva likely to be barred because of his corruption conviction and half of the electorate responding they want to see him in jail.
If he is allowed to run, Lula would lead the field with 34% of the vote in a scenario involving the most likely candidates, according to a Datafolha poll published Wednesday. It was the first survey taken since Lula’s conviction on corruption charges was upheld by an appeals court last week.
The ruling will likely block him from the Oct. 7 election because of a law banning candidates convicted of crimes, though Lula is appealing.
The new survey showed Lula would be comfortably ahead of other candidates in the first round if he can run, with right-wing congressman Jair Bolsonaro trailing with 16%, followed by environmentalist Marina Silva at 8%. However other pre-candidates, particularly the succesful Sao Paulo governor Geraldo Alckmin, have still to confirm their bids.
If Lula cannot run, Bolsonaro would take the lead but not get enough votes to win outright in the first round, according to the poll published by the Folha de S.Paulo newspaper. Bolsonaro would lose in a runoff to two-time presidential hopeful Marina Silva, or face a dead heat with likely center-right candidate governor Geraldo Alckmin.
If Lula is definitively disqualified by higher courts, a record 32% of Brazilians polled by Datafolha said they would vote for no one in the presidential race, an increase of 10 percentage points from a poll taken prior to his conviction.
That level of disenchantment with Brazil’s scandal-plagued political class is unprecedented, according to Datafolha director Mauro Paulino. The proportion of voters who said they would back no one in February 2014, ahead of the last election won by impeached leftist Dilma Rousseff, was 19%.
If Lula is out of the running, Bolsonaro would get 18% in the first round while Marina Silva would get 13% and Ciro Gomes, the leftist former governor of Ceará state, 10%. TV presenter Luciano Huck and Alckmin would each get 8% without Lula.
The bad news for Lula’s Workers Party is that his ability to transfer votes is slim, with 15% of supporters saying they would back Marina Silva and 14% going for Gomes. Datafolha found that 53% would never vote for a candidate backed by Lula.
In such an open field, the candidate best able to forge a coalition stands the best chance to take the lead. That could favor centrist Alckmin, according to political scientist Lucas de Aragão, a partner at Brasilia consultancy Arko Advice.
Even though Bolsonaro and Marina Silva have better numbers, both have immense difficulties building coalitions and Bolsonaro appears to have hit his ceiling at 20%, he said.
“Alckmin’s strength is his potential to build a broad coalition. He might be starting the race from the back, but his car is much better than the others,” Aragão said.
Datafolha also showed that 53% of Brazilians believe Lula should be jailed, while 44% feel the contrary and 3%, did not reply.
The Datafolha interviews were conducted on Jan. 29-30, a few days after three appellate court judges voted to uphold Lula’s convictions on taking bribes and money laundering. Datafolha interviewed 2,826 people across Brazil. The margin of error is 2 percentage points.