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LatinNews Daily - 29 February 2016

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Lula offers to run in 2018 “if necessary” in Brazil

Development: On 27 February Brazil’s former president Lula da Silva (2003-2011) told activists at an event to mark the 36th anniversary of the foundation of the ruling Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT) that he would be willing to stand as its presidential candidate again in 2018.

Significance: Ever since he left office in 2010 with high approval ratings, Lula has repeatedly told friends and journalists that he plans to stand again at the end of President Dilma Rousseff’s term. However, his odds of securing victory in that election look increasingly long, due to both Brazil’s deteriorating economic scenario and the corruption allegations mounting against him.

  • In a 40-minute speech to activists, Lula criticised the media and the opposition for divulging “lies, leaks and allegations of criminality”. He offered to reveal both his banking and phone records to investigators looking into allegations that he personally benefitted from refurbishments to two properties in São Paulo state by construction companies suspected of involvement in the Petrobras corruption scandal. “They want to beat me, but they won’t beat me by lying”, Lula said. “They’ll have to beat me in the streets”.
  • At the next election Lula will be 72, and he has already survived a bout of cancer. But he sought to put any concerns about his health to bed by joking that he still had “the desire of a 30-year old to be president of the republic”. Certainly, Lula retains a loyal following, and many PT party members have spoken of their desire to see him run again. But after the convulsions of the Petrobras scandal, there may be an argument for putting forward a fresh face for the PT’s ticket in 2018.

Looking Ahead: Recent opinion polls suggest Lula may have an uphill struggle to win a third term. A CNT/MDA poll, published on 24 February, showed that 70% of Brazilians believe that Lula personally benefitted from government corruption. Pitting him against the other likely candidates for the 2018 election, the poll showed that Lula would lose comfortably to Senator Aécio Neves, who ran for the presidency and lost for the Partido da Social Democracia Brasileira (PSDB) in 2014, though he would beat others such as Geraldo Alckmin, the PSDB governor of São Paulo, in a first round vote. Notably, however, in the head-to-head scenario of a second round, Lula lost to all putative candidates.