SAO PAULO – Fernando Haddad invoked on Wednesday the legacy of the 2003-2011 administration of Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva to give a push to his presidential candidacy at his first campaign event after the jailed former president who remains Brazil’s most popular politician abandoned his bid to get on the Oct. 7 ballot.
“We’re not going to desist from an effort that was so good for so many people,” said the aspirant for the Workers Party (PT) in a meeting with students in Sao Paulo.
The selection of an event with a marked educational profile in the country’s main metropolis did not come about by chance, since Haddad was education minister under Lula and successor Dilma Rousseff and served as the mayor of Sao Paulo from 2013-2016.
Haddad faces the challenge of absorbing – in less than a month – the broad support voter surveys attributed to Lula before election officials barred him from the contest over his corruption conviction.
The surveys at the time forecast a broad plurality – some 40 percent – for the ex-president in the first electoral round, while a survey released Tuesday put Haddad at 8 percent.
However, Haddad trusts that the support that Lula enjoyed despite his incarceration will now gravitate to him and his running mate, Manuela D’Avila.
“It’s a secret,” responded Haddad ironically when reporters asked him about his strategy to ensure that transfer of support.
“I think that Lula’s governments showed that it’s possible” to create the conditions “so that you can grow as people,” Haddad told the students, who demonstrated their firm support for him at the Wednesday rally.
Haddad was confirmed as its presidential candidate by the PT on Tuesday, the last day on which the party could change its candidate after Lula’s exclusion.
Currently leading in the polls, with 26 percent, is far-right hopeful Jair Bolsonaro, who remains hospitalized nearly a week after being stabbed at a rally.
The only other candidate in double digits is Ciro Gomes, with 11 percent, while Marina Silva and Geraldo Alckmin are tied with Haddad.
The contest is virtually certain to go to a second round, set for Oct. 28, and the notoriously racist and sexist Bolsonaro is seen as having no chance of prevailing in a runoff.