Brazil’s ex-president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who has been held as a political prisoner for more than five months, chose Fernando Haddad and Manuela D’Ávila to stand in the presidential election for the “O Povo Feliz de Novo” (“The People Happy Again”) Coalition. Haddad, a former minister of Education and former mayor of São Paulo, will replace Lula on the ticket, and D’Ávila will take over as his running mate.
The announcement was made on Tuesday outside the Federal Police headquarters in Curitiba, where Lula is being held. The ex-president and Workers’ Party (PT) leader wrote a letter to the Brazilian people, read by lawyer and PT co-founder Luiz Eduardo Greenhalgh during the rally that announced Haddad as the party’s presidential candidate.
In his letter, Lula explains his decision to appoint the former mayor of São Paulo to stand, pointing out Haddad’s work as a former minister of Education between 2005 and 2012, and the public policies they implemented that helped 4 million students to enter higher education during the PT administrations.
“They have banned the Brazilian people from voting freely to change the grim reality of our country. I have never accepted injustice, and never will. (…) It is in face of these circumstances that I have to make a decision (…) I am recommending to the PT the replacement of my candidacy with that of my brother Fernando Haddad, who has thus far so loyally carried out the position of vice-presidential candidate. (…) If they wish to silence our voices and defeat our project for the country, they are fooling themselves. We are still alive, in the hearts and memories of the people. And our name now is Haddad,” Lula wrote.
The letter ends with the ex-president’s request for his supporters to vote for Haddad and the PT candidates for state governor and legislative seats. “Today, we have become millions of Lulas and, from now on, Fernando Haddad will be Lula for millions of Brazilians,” the Workers’ Party leader wrote.
During his speech in Curitiba, Haddad said he will not give up on Brazil and that Lula gave him the mission to rebuild it. He reiterated Lula’s importance for the country’s history.
“We will not accept this, we will rebuild ourselves, we are Brazilians, and we have a mission to make the people remember the good days we’ve lived [during the PT administrations]. I feel the pain of so many Brazilian men and women who are hearing the news today that they will not be able to vote for he who we would like to see walking into the presidential office building to rule the country starting on January 1st. It’s a pain felt by the people who know what our administrations represented, from the point of view of history, such a cruel, unfair history. Our Lula represented and still represents a turning point in Brazil’s history, what came before and after him. And he came from our people,” Haddad said.
The now Workers’ Party candidate also spoke about the 1980s and the struggle for democratization in the country, saying he never thought he would have to fight again for democracy. “I thought my children and grandchildren would have to fight other battles, but that our democracy would be solid. What happened with Brazil? In two years [since the 2016 coup], Brazil returned to the hunger map and we’ve been hearing news we haven’t heard in a long time.”
The PT chair, Gleisi Hoffmann, was in charge of announcing Haddad’s candidacy during the rally. In her speech, she pointed out the party and allied parties, as well as partner movements, have fought until the last minute for Lula’s right to run.
“Those who are holding this vigil [Free Lula Vigil] know our struggle. Even though Lula has been imprisoned for more than 150 days, he maintains a lead in opinion poll. We fought so hard to have Lula as a presidential candidate. On Aug. 15, facing all this project [the coup and attacks on his candidacy], we registered Lula as a candidate, in a beautiful celebration in Brasília. We’ve always believed his candidacy was fundamental to take the country out of the crisis. It is so sad to see Brazilian democracy – if we have one, that is – going through this process. We accept [ex-]president Lula’s challenge of not letting the Brazilian people without an alternative to fight,” Hoffmann said before announcing Haddad’s candidacy.
For the third time, the United Nations Human Rights Committee reiterated on Monday a request to the Brazilian State to ensure Lula’s political rights as a candidate.
Lula was leading in all opinion polls for Brazil’s October elections, but he was ultimately barred from running by the Supreme Electoral Court on Aug. 31.
The Workers’ Party maintained the former president’s name on the ticket until the legal deadline in the election calendar.
The first opinion poll by Datafolha that did not mention Lula as a candidate was conducted last Monday and shows Haddad, right-wing candidate Geraldo Alckmin, centrist Ciro Gomes, and center-right Marina Silva in a technical tie.
The former minister and now presidential candidate had the highest growth rate among candidates in the latest poll. He reached 9 percent of voter support, 5 percentage points higher than his performance in the last survey, from Aug. 22, when his name was only mentioned after questions that pointed Lula as the Workers’ Party candidate.
The PT now expects Lula voters to support Haddad. The same Datafolha poll shows that 33 percent of interviewees would vote for a candidate endorsed by Lula, while 16 percent said they “could vote” for them.
Edition: Mauro Ramos