Is it coming to the duel in Brazil that many are longing for – and at least as many fear? Will ex-President Lula da Silva, the most popular head of state in recent history according to surveys, run against right-wing corona denier Jair Bolsonaro in next year’s presidential elections?
On Monday, a Supreme Court judge cleared the way for it by annulling all pending lawsuits against Lula in Curitiba, southern Brazil. Lula gets back his political rights and is allowed to run for office. The federal prosecutor wants to appeal the decision, but the chances of success are slim.
Although the judge shirked an assessment of the content of the trials against Lula, his decision has eminently political implications – as have all legal tricks in connection with Lula, who was sentenced to twelve years in prison in 2017 for corruption and spent 20 months in a cell in Curitiba had to. The mood among Brazil’s top judges had turned in his favor over the past few weeks.
A slap in the face for judges and prosecutors
The former provincial judge Sergio Moro and the public prosecutors who prosecuted Lula in connection with the corruption scandal surrounding the semi-state oil company Petrobras contributed to this. In order to arrest Lula, they had violated all the rules of an independent judiciary: They flogged and intrigued, deliberately fed the press with half-truths and manipulated testimony. This emerges from a gigantic tangle of recordings of conversations between judges and prosecutors, which the police had confiscated from a hacker. They were cleared for Lula’s defense attorney by the Supreme Court a few weeks ago and for publication.
Monday’s decision is not an acquittal for Lula, but primarily a slap in the face for Moro and his prosecutors. Lula’s supporters are still celebrating, because now the cards for the 2022 election are being reshuffled. Just a few days ago, a poll showed that the ex-president still has the greatest potential for voters – Bolsonaro is in second place.
But the judge’s decision was also received positively in the Bolsonaro area, reports the newspaper »O Globo«. This is hardly surprising, because it has provided the president with an argument with which he can weld his supporters together and further polarize the political scenario. The hatred of Lula and his PT workers’ party runs deep among many Brazilians; it has taken on irrational traits.
Now the allegations against Bolsonaro are taking a back seat
Corruption allegations against Bolsonaro’s sons and his alliance with the opportunist Centrão, a party bloc in Congress notorious for opportunism and greed, had recently put the loyalty of his supporters to a severe test. Now all eyes are on Lula – and the allegations against Bolsonaro take a back seat.
The hatred of Lula and the PT had already led many members of the economic and political elite to vote for the right-wing radical or to abstain in the runoff election between Bolsonaro and the PT candidate Fernando Haddad. Many have now publicly regretted their decision.
They may face the same dilemma next year if there is a runoff between Bolsonaro and Lula. Whether they give the PT candidate a chance will depend on how the economy develops.
Lula and Bolsonaro are courting the same audience
The same goes for the poor: if inflation and unemployment continue to rise, it will have a decisive impact on who they vote for. Lula and Bolsonaro are courting the same audience. Lula once won over the poor with “Bolsa Familia”, a program to fight poverty that has won numerous international awards. Bolsonaro is now also having money distributed to the poor in a slimmed-down version of “Bolsa Familia”. Allegedly he wants to mitigate the consequences of the corona crisis, in reality he is campaigning with it.
The big question, however, is whether Lula will even compete. In the past few weeks he has indicated that he would like to crown his biography with a victory over the hated Bolsonaro – it would be his greatest satisfaction. It is reported from those around him that he himself no longer expected this chance. The judge’s decision apparently surprised him, as did Bolsonaro.
Lula would face the same challenge as Joe Biden
But next year Lula will be 77 years old. He seems to be healthy – he has survived corona disease and trains daily on the fitness machine. In addition, he has found a new partner with whom he lives.
But the hardships of an election campaign and the following four years, if it wins, can hardly be overestimated.
Lula would face the same challenge as Joe Biden – he would have to reconcile the country, repair the corona damage and rebuild the nation economically at the same time. In contrast to Biden, however, in addition to the fanatical civilian supporters of Bolsonaro, he would have large parts of the armed forces against him.
In view of these challenges, it would not be surprising if Lula left the question of a candidacy open for a while – and then let a younger one take precedence.