RIO DE JANEIRO – Former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva resigned on Tuesday as the presidential candidate of the Workers Party (PT) in Brazil’s Oct. 7 election and proclaimed in a letter written from his prison cell his unconditional support for Fernando Haddad as the party’s new standard-bearer.
“We’re already millions of Lulas and, from this day forward, Fernando Haddad will be Lula for millions of Brazilians,” he wrote.
Lula’s letter was publicly read in Curitiba, outside the jail where he has been incarcerated since April on a corruption conviction, at the gathering at which the PT presented its new presidential ticket consisting of Haddad with Communist former lawmaker Manuela d’Avila as his running mate.
“I want to ask, from the bottom of my heart, all those who would have voted for me to vote for comrade Fernando Haddad for president of the republic,” Brazil’s most popular politician said in his letter.
He added that his corruption conviction, which election officials cite as the reason his name can’t appear on the ballot, was a “legal farce and political revenge” to prevent him from being re-elected.
Lula gave credit to Haddad, who served as education minister during his 2003-2011 presidency, for one of the most important transformations in Brazil with the opening of universities for four million black and indigenous graduates of public schools.
“I know that one day true justice will be done and my innocence will be recognized. On that day I’ll be helping Haddad in the government of hope,” the 72-year-old Lula said.
The PT waited until the last possible day to substitute Haddad for Lula, hoping that one of its legal appeals against his disqualification would succeed.
Polls showed Lula as the most likely winner both of a plurality in the first round of presidential voting and of a majority in a subsequent runoff.
Haddad is in fifth place in the latest voter surveys, with 9 percent, albeit up from 4 percent last month.
Now that Lula is definitively out, the contest is almost certain to go to a second round, provisionally scheduled for Oct. 28.
Leading the voter surveys is far-right hopeful Jair Bolsonaro (24 percent), who is currently hospitalized after being stabbed last week at a political rally; followed by Ciro Gomes (13 percent), environmentalist Marina Silva (11 percent) and Geraldo Alckmin (10 percent).
Bolsonaro, an apologist for Brazil’s 1964-1985 military regime known for his often racist, sexist and homophobic rhetoric, would lose a runoff against any of the other candidates, according to surveys.