Wednesday, December 6, 2023

LATIN AMERICA | 06-10-2022 02:00

Lula, Bolsonaro pick up endorsements as Brazil looks to run-off

Incumbent and former president begin receiving support from key figures – and opponents – as a fierce race for the Planalto Palace begins.

Far-right incumbent Jair Bolsonaro and leftist challenger Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva have both won key endorsements as they gear up for their showdown in Brazil's presidential run-off on October 30.

The two rivals are aggressively chasing endorsements for their polarising final bout, after finishing with a closer-than-expected five-point difference in last Sunday's first-round: 48 percent for ex-president Lula to 43 percent for Bolsonaro.

Both were racing to win over Brazilians who voted for the third- and fourth-place finishers, centre-right candidate Simone Tebet (four percent) and centre-left candidate Ciro Gomes (three percent), but on Wednesday it emerged that both would be backing Lula.

However, the rivals will also be campaigning hard to woo those who cast blank or spoiled ballots (three percent and two percent, respectively) or simply didn't vote – 21 percent of the South American giant's 156 million voters.


Bolsonaro’s backers

Brazil’s president racked up several major endorsements, including from influential corruption buster Sergio Moro, his one-time justice minister who had quit his administration in protest in 2020.

"Lula is not an option," Moro, the ex-judge who led the massive Lava Jato ("Car Wash") graft investigation, wrote on Twitter.

"His government was stained by the corruption of democracy," he said, declaring his backing for Bolsonaro.

Moro is famous as the judge who jailed Lula, the biggest name in the investigation that uncovered a sprawling web of corruption that stole billions from state-run oil company Petrobras.

He resigned his judgeship to become Bolsonaro's justice minister in 2019, but quit the following year, accusing the president of interfering in police investigations that targeted his inner circle.

The resignation was hugely damaging for Bolsonaro, who had run on an anti-corruption platform.

But this week the president said all that was now "water under the bridge."

"From here on, it's a new relationship," he said. "There are no scores to settle."

Brazil's Supreme Court annulled Lula's controversial corruption convictions last year, ruling Moro was biased in the case and that the chamber lacked jurisdiction

Moro tried to make a presidential run himself this year, but failed to garner enough support and opted instead for the Senate, winning a seat for the southern state of Paraná.

Bolsonaro also got endorsements from the governors of Brazil's second- and third-biggest states, Minas Gerais and Rio de Janeiro – newly re-elected Romeu Zema and Claudio Castro, respectively.

He also scored one from outgoing Governor Rodrigo Garcia of São Paulo, Brazil's most populous and wealthiest state, who lost his own re-election bid.


Love for Lula

Lula meanwhile got an important, if grudging, nod from Gomes. The centre-left firebrand served as a minister in Lula's first administration, but later fell out with him and emerged as one of his fiercest critics.

The endorsement from Gomes' Democratic Labour Party (PDT) came despite a long history of animosity between the two men. The candidate grudgingly went along with the party leadership, saying in a video he "supported" the endorsement as "the only exit, under the circumstances."

Tebet won 4.2 percent of the vote Sunday – the first choice of nearly five million Brazilians – and announced Wednesday she would back the former president. 

"These past four years, Brazil has been consumed by a bonfire of hate and strife," she said, attacking Bolsonaro over his Covid-19 "denialism," pro-gun policies and the 30 million Brazilians living in hunger.

"I maintain my criticism of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva... but I will give him my vote, because I recognise his commitment to democracy and the constitution, which I have never seen from the current president,” she said.

The endorsement came after her party, the Brazilian Democratic Movement (MDB) – whose leadership was split between pro-Bolsonaro and pro-Lula camps – said members could back whichever man they wanted.

Lula also scored an endorsement from his predecessor as president, Fernando Henrique Cardoso (1995-2002), the centre-right politician who beat him in the 1994 and 1998 elections.

Cardoso wrote on Twitter that he would cast his vote for Lula's "history of struggle for democracy and social inclusion."

He posted two pictures of himself and his successor over the years – a black-and-white image from 1980, and a more recent one in colour.

"Thank you for your vote and your trust," Lula replied.



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