He hears “return to combat”. Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva announced on Saturday May 7 that he would run for a third term in the October election to “rebuild” the country, after the management “irresponsible and criminal” by Jair Bolsonaro.
“We are all ready to work not only for victory on October 2, but for the reconstruction and transformation of Brazil, which will be more difficult than victory in the election”said Lula, 76, at a rally to launch his campaign in front of 4,000 supporters in Sao Paulo.
Twelve years after leaving power with a stratospheric approval rate (87%), the former trade unionist, who still has no successor on the left, will therefore run for a third term. The announcement of this sixth candidacy for the presidential election was an open secret.
For lack of a candidate who would make a third way viable, Lula is the only one who can beat 67-year-old Jair Bolsonaro at the polls, whom he distances in all the polls but who seems ready to do anything to retain power.
“Restore the sovereignty” of the country
“What do we want? The Brazil of democracy or authoritarianism? The choice has never been easier »chanted Lula in front of the crowd who cheered him to the cries of “Lula, warrior of the Brazilian people”. His speech, lasting about fifty minutes, was held in front of a giant screen showing the Brazilian flag, a symbol that the Bolsonarists had appropriated. “Brazil is too big to be relegated to pariah status”launched Lula, repeating several times that he claimed “restore sovereignty” of the country, facing “the irresponsible and criminal policy of the government”.
Contrary to the big meetings of his heyday, where he showed all his aura as a tribune, Lula, navy suit and open shirt collar, was content to read his speech, not looking at the public very much and avoiding big flights. His relatives advised him to show a calm and reassuring face, after recent slippages which caused controversy.
During an interview with the magazine Time this week he attacked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, “good comedian (…) who puts on a show” and is “so responsible” war in his country than his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin. The former milling cutter was also singled out for his controversial statements on abortion, the police or the middle classes.
In a bid to show a sacred union to beat Jair Bolsonaro, Lula’s running mate Geraldo Alckmin, a former center-right governor of Sao Paulo, said in his videoconference speech that“no discrepancy” could not prevent him from fulfilling his “mission, the defense of democracy”.
If he does not have the charisma of Lula, Mr Alckmin, who was beaten by the former left-wing president in the second round of the ballot in 2006, is there to reassure voters from the centre, the moderate right and business circles.
Tested positive for Covid-19 on Friday, it was from his home, by videoconference, that he participated in the launch of the campaign. “Lula is today the only one who can forge an alliance for a great democratic front”assures lawyer Alexandre Pupo, 29, who enthusiastically attended the speeches.
From next week, Lula will go on campaign and criss-cross the country – as the president candidate Bolsonaro has been doing for months – starting with the state of Minas Gerais (South-East). The presidential election of October 2 and 30 will bear witness to the extreme polarization of the immense emerging country of 213 million inhabitants.
The former trade unionist believes his legacy – reducing inequality, social policies, promoting education – has been “destroyed, dismantled”. “I believe I can do more and do better than what I have already done”he commented to the Time.
This new candidacy has a taste of revenge for the ex-president, whose banishment from the race in 2018 had allowed the easy election of Jair Bolsonaro. While imprisoned for a year and a half for corruption until November 2019, the former steelworker’s political career seemed to be over. Until the Supreme Court overturned his convictions in March 2021.