Lula da Silva, presidential candidate of Brazil, raises the fist of Fernando Haddad, candidate for governor, during a demonstration in São Paulo MIGUEL SCHINCARIOL (AFP)
Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is waiting. Both Geraldo Alckmin, his vice-presidential candidate, and his political heir, Fernando Haddad, the candidate for governor of the state of São Paulo, an old dream that has defied the Workers’ Party (PT), are already looking into the rain this Saturday while participants crowd a corner of Paulista Avenue for the final act of campaigning before this Sunday’s elections. The most tense and polarized in recent memory confront him with President Jair Bolsonaro. Lula waits in a car until the waters subside, only to appear in front of a crowd, electrocuted by his presence.
The melody of the catchy tune Lula Lá resounds from the speakers, an old jingle that the left has reissued for these elections, and alternates with chants like Bolsonaro out or Brazil, urgently, Lula President. Although the PT’s color is red, the march along the famous Rua Augusta becomes a jumble of flags and colors representing the diversity of political and social forces converged in its candidacy, from workers’ centers to feminist groups or the black Movement. All calls are aimed at getting Lula elected in the first round, as the first round is called, to avoid surprises with the resigned captain Bolsonaro threatening not to recognize the defeat the polls are drawing. The latest poll, a Datafolha from this Saturday, gives the former union leader 50% of the vote, compared to 36% for Bolsonaro.
Along the way, the coalition left is also fondling the possibility of an unprecedented victory if Haddad, who is seeking his own political redemption after losing in the second round with Bolsonaro in 2018, is elected governor in the wealthiest and most populous state of São Paulo.
Like presidential elections, state elections in Brazil will see a second round if no candidate gets half of the votes. Haddad leads Datafolha’s latest measurement at 41%, followed by Tarcísio de Freitas, an army engineer who was Bolsonaro’s infrastructure minister, at 31%. In third place, with 22 percent, is the current governor, Rodrigo García, from the traditional Brazilian social-democracy PSDB, who only took office last April after João Dória resigned after a failed presidential candidacy.
The PT is the strongest party in Brazil but has lost territorial power since the impeachment trial that ousted Dilma Rousseff, Lula’s successor at the Planalto Palace, in 2016. Haddad is of Lebanese descent, political science professor, former education minister, and mayor of the city of São Paulo between 2013 and late 2016. He inherited Lula’s banners when he was forced to abandon the presidential race because he was in prison for corruption (the court later overturned hers). convictions). He tried as best he could to stop Bolsonaro’s advance, but he couldn’t.
“Brazil is isolated from the world,” Haddad lamented in a meeting with the press this Saturday, just before marching shoulder to shoulder with Lula at the end of the campaign. After four years of setbacks in terms of intolerance towards minorities, racism, environmental, health and education policies, the situation is critical. “Lula will have a lot of work to do to rebuild this country,” he estimated. “Bolsonaro’s rejection is very strong, even inside São Paulo,” he said, explaining the favoritism he has in the polls, both for himself and for his political mentor. In the event of a victory for both, the advantage would be a programmatic alignment between the federal and state governments “in the sense of stimulating the economy and fighting poverty”.
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Although the state of São Paulo, the largest electoral college, is traditionally a center-right bastion, it is also the birthplace of the PT. A win would have a very special note. “It is the richest state that has been ruled by the oldest and most direct opponent since redemocratization: the PSDB,” emphasizes politician and analyst Fernando Gabeira. “The PT had the federal government for 13 years and never that of São Paulo. It means breaking a taboo and raising the level of governability through the presence of the same forces in São Paulo and Brasilia,” he stresses.
In these elections, too, the PT has an ace up its sleeve. Alckmin, Lula’s formula, is a center-right historical figure who was governor of the PSDB for 14 years. He was Lula’s re-election rival in 2006 but has now said part of his job is helping elect Haddad, whom he met when he was mayor.
The dispute over the state is headed for a complicated second round in which it is in the interest of the PT to repeat the duel between Lulismo and Bolsonarismo. “With Rodrigo García, Haddad would have no place towards ‘centre’ and would see the entire right reach his rival. Compared to Tarcísio, Haddad inherits most of García’s votes,” says analyst Carlos Melo.
“The governor of São Paulo is automatically a candidate for president of the republic. It is the second budget in the country. That would put Fernando Haddad’s political career back in the direction of the Planalto Palace,” stresses Melo. Losing a close second round, he clarifies, wouldn’t mean the end of his career either, as there’s always the possibility that Lula will appoint him minister if he wins the presidency, which remains a priority. In any case, Lula’s salvation also goes through São Paulo.
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