Brazil's jailed former president Lula barred from running again by electoral court
Supporters of the former Brazilian president Luiz InÃ¡cio Lula da Silva attend a rally in Curitiba, Brazil, on Aug. 30. (Rodolfo Buhrer/Reuters) August 31 at 11:55 PM
SAO PAULO, Brazil â" Brazilâs embattled former president Luiz InÃ¡cio Lula da Silva, the front-runner in the countryâs election, will be struck from the ballot, an electoral court ruled on Friday, reshaping Brazilâs election one month before voters cast their ballots.
The much-anticipated decision brings some clarity to a chaotic campaign season in which the man who had been favored to win Latin Americaâs largest election was sitting behind bars.
Lula, who ruled Brazil between 2003 and 2011, was sen tenced to 12 years in prison for money laundering and corruption in April. Yet, running a campaign largely from his jail cell, he has been able to capture nearly 40 percent of prospective votes for Octoberâs presidential elections, according to the latest polls.
By a vote of 6-1, the Supreme Electoral Court barred Lula from running because it would violate an anti-corruption law that the former president himself signed. The 2010 âClean Slateâ law prevents any candidate who has had a conviction upheld from running for office for eight years. He is the first presidential candidate to be barred from running because of the law.
âWe are not deciding at any level, on the former presidentâs culpability, and much less his political legacy,â said Judge Luis Roberto Barroso, who brought the case to the electoral tribunal for deliberation. The law preventing Lula from running because of his corruption charges is clear, he argued. âThere is no margin for the electora l court to make another decision.â
âWe have a clearer picture that Lulaâs candidacy is doomed,â said David Fleischer, a politics professor at the University of Brasilia. âToday is D-Day. As of today, the Workersâ Party will switch gears into plan B.â
Lulaâs Workersâ Party is expected to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court and has until Sept. 17 to replace Lula with another candidate or forfeit the ticket. The party is widely expected to cast Lulaâs vice president, Fernando Haddad, as his replacement. But whether Lula can transfer his popularity to a replacement remains to be seen.
Lula, who left the presidency with a record approval rating of 87 percent, consolidated support for his candidacy in the aftermath of his arrest. In April, after a tense, two-day standoff with police, the former president turned himself in to authorities.
He is accused of securing lucrative government contracts for one of the countryâs largest construc tion companies in exchange for a beachfront apartment. His conviction was upheld by an appeals court in January.
Lula has said the case amounts to a right-wing coup to keep him from winning the presidency.
Many see the court decision as a marker in Brazilâs fight against endemic corruption. Lula is the highest-profile figure to be charged in the âcarwashâ investigation, a sprawling corruption probe that has brought down some of Brazilâs most powerful business executives and politicians over the past five years.
âBrazilâs fight against corruption and impunity constantly suffer attacks and attempts at delegitimization by powerful parties and political disputes,â said Bruno Brandao, head of Transparency International in Brazil. âThe best way to protect these efforts is through the strict legality and swift resolution of eventual disputes.â
Last month, a group of United Nations-appointed human rights experts urged Brazilian authorities to al low Lula to run until he exhausts all appeals. He faces seven other corruption cases.
In June, 29 members of the U.S. Congress, including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), signed a letter questioning the merits of Lulaâs imprisonment. âThe fight against corruption must not be used to justify the persecution of political opponents or deny them the opportunity to freely participate in elections,â the lawmakers wrote.
The end of Lulaâs candidacy opens the electoral field to runner-up Jair Bolsonaro, a right-wing congressman and former soldier whose platform includes gun legalization and weaker environmental regulations.
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