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Brazil: Lula drops out of leadership race

September 11, 2018

With a tribunal deadline looming, the Workers Party in Brazil has named former President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva's running mate Fernando Haddad as their presidential candidate. Lula was ruled unable to run from prison.

Braslien, Sao Paulo: Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Fernando Haddad
Image: Getty Images/AFP/Y. Chiba

Fernando Haddad, the former Sao Paulo mayor and the running mate of Brazil's jailed ex-president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, has been named as the Workers Party presidential candidate. Party officials made the announcement on Twitter. 

The change was a virtual certainty otherwise Lula's Workers Party would have no candidate in the presidential elections, with the first round less than a month away on October 7.

It comes less than two weeks after the Superior Electoral Tribunal ruled that the former president cannot run while serving a 12-year sentence for corruption. The tribunal set a deadline for the Workers Party of 7:00 pm local time Tuesday (2200 GMT) to name a stand-in.

Though he is in jail, the 72-year-old Lula was the frontrunner in polls, and his removal from the race has left the field a mess, and catapulted rightwing populist Jair Bolsonaro into the lead

A poll released on Monday by Datafolha shows Haddad, a 55-year-old with little of the star power of his mentor, with nine percent support, up five points from a month ago.

That places him in a mix of candidates hoping to make it to a second round of voting against Bolsonaro, who currently is out front at 26 percent.

Brazilian ex-president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva
Lula still popularImage: picture-alliance/dpa/P. Lopez

Lula remains popular

Lula's supporters have been camped out outside the federal police headquarters in Curitiba since he was jailed on April 7.

The city is the epicenter of a wide corruption investigation that has seen dozens of politicians and business leaders brought to justice, including Lula, who was president from 2003 to 2011.

He was convicted in July 2017 of taking a bribe from a Brazilian construction company in the form of a luxury seaside apartment. In return he steered contracts with state oil giant Petrobras towards the construction company.

Numerous appeals of his conviction and sentence have ended in failure, and his lawyers have not been able to get around clean slate rules that have kept Lula off the ballot.

He also faces trial in five other cases, but insists he is the innocent victim of politically motivated prosecutions to keep him out of office.

Lula rose to power as a union leader during Brazil's military dictatorship, and co-founded the Workers Party in 1980.

His presidency has been credited with lifting millions out of poverty through generous social programs, transforming his Workers Party into a political powerhouse.

They have won the last four presidential elections, the last two by Dilma Rousseff, who was Lula's handpicked successor. She was ousted from power by Congress in 2016, accused of manipulating federal budgets.

av/aw (AFP, Reuters)

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