The parliamentary coup, Lula’s ineligibility and the 2018 elections

The defeat in the 2014 presidential elections (the fourth in a row) by a small margin (of about 3%) to the main left party in Brazil, the Worker’s Party (“PT” in the Portuguese language acronym), was not a result accepted by the Brazilian right. As it was commented in the previous article, a while after the second turn in the elections some urged for an impeachment and the defeated candidate, the Senator Aecio Neves of PSDB (acronym that represents in Portuguese the party in the right that polarizes politics in Brazil in opposition to PT since the 1994 elections), asked for a recount. This expedient did not achieve success and the Superior Electoral Court maintained the result, that is, Dilma Rousseff’s victory. A huge articulation among politicians, entreneurial sectors and the media promoted a big campaign for Dilma’s deposition, which actually happened a little over a year after her second inauguration day, in January 2015. Dilma lost popular support when during her second mandate she implemented the policy she criticized in campaign: the austere fiscal policy that ends up penalizing mainly the most vulnerable.

 Simultaneously, the Car Wash Operation is made a tool to criminalize PT (the political party most stained by the operation) and the former president Lula. The front-runner for the 2018 elections, Lula, was arrested in April this year, six months before the race. During Lula’s government a law known as “Clean Record Law” was approved, a law which sees that candidates convicted in second instance are deemed ineligible, and said law would theoretically stop him from running for office. Theoretically because politicians ran for town hall elections in Brazil in 2016 and many of them, elected mayors, ran the elections sub judice and had their elections recognized afterwards. It is most probably not Lula’s case, who hasn’t had an unbiased judicial analysis in part of the charges directed at him, a fact acknowledged by many jurors in Brazil and abroad. Still, the “script” for the 2018 elections has not been what the right had hoped for.

Lula was registered as candidate, even if he is arrested. The most recent polls in the second half of August show a growth of 4 to 5 points to his candidacy. The former mayor of Brazil’s biggest metropolis, São Paulo, Fernando Haddad, his candidate and vice-president, will most likely be directed to hold Lula’s position when the Superior Electoral Court probably declares Lula ineligible. The UN Human Rights Comittee, of which Brazil is a signatory, understood that Lula’s political rights are being violated and determined that the country allowed his candidacy. It seems that the Superior Courts in Brazil, which have had a very controversial demeanor in their interpretations of the law, will not abide by this decision coming from the UN.

 Polls indicate a high potential of transfer of votes from Lula to Haddad. The later has 4% in the polls of the major institutes, however, when presented as “Lula’s candidate”, he goes on to take 15%, according to the study done by the investment bank XP, behind only of the far-right candidate, the serviceman and federal deputy Jair Bolsonaro, with 22% in the scenario without Lula. The growth of Bolsonaro’s support was due to, in great part, the political crisis and the corruption scandals that demoralized the traditional parties, including PSDB, of candidate Geraldo Alckmin, currently between 5% (scenario with Lula) and 9% (scenario without Lula). The hope for PSDB is that Alckmin, who has the biggest support among political parties and the longest campaign time in the media (in Brazil the campaign time on the radio and on tv is given according to the representativity of the parties in parliament) will be a launch pad to his candidacy. As the Brazilian system simultaneously elects the president, the federal deputies, senators, governos and state deputies, the aliances in the state level do not necessarily repeat the aliances in the national level. And in the states, especially in the northeast region (the poorest in Brazil, the one with the biggest chunk of PT voters, especially cared for in the party’s governments) many of the tickets of the parties supporting Alckmin, formally, are aligned with Lula or the one he indicates. Therefore, the “political deconstruction” that the right intended to endeavor against Lula and PT, probably expecting that the torrent of accusations, the long and intense negative campaign in the media, the imprisonment of party members, including that of Lula himself, would make the support to both fall, invalidating the party and its leader in the race, did not occur. Lula, as it has been pointed, has seen his numbers in polls grow and PT is the preferred party to 29% of Brazilians, more than the adding up of all the remaining parties.

Another important factor is the economic crisis. It has been spread around the country the idea that Dilma’s deposition would be the solution to the economic problems. That, of course, did not come true. Actually, before the impeachment, the economy had already started giving signs it was in recovery, which were braked by the political crisis. The economy kept on going down, it plummeted in over seven percent in the two-year period of 2015-2016. In 2017 and 2018 the annual growth will be of a little over 1%, which is owned to the export agriculture, the only sector with economic wealth. If it were to depend only on domestic economy, the lookout would be of stagnation. Differently from the full employment of later 2014, when Dilma’s first mandate was to end, the high unemployment rates are steady, people have lost their purchase power and have no perspective of improvement in the current government. The considerable worsening of the economic situation is felt, especially when it comes to lowest classes, which look back with nostalgia to the good times of the PT governments until 2014.

Some already consider the PT member Fernando Haddad, virtual substitute to Lula, the front-runner in the presidential race. The question is when Lula will be able to transfer his prestige to Haddad (who has been boycotted by the big media and is not shown in the news, interviews nor debates as Lula’s representative, despite PT’s requests). But, unlike what many have thought, Lula and PT are alive in this dispute.