Brazilian former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (2003-2011) has thrown himself into the election campaign that will determine the country’s next leader on Sunday. Just days before the election, and with polls showing a slight lead for incumbent Dilma Rousseff of his own Workers’ Party (PT), the charismatic former steel workers’ union leader has entered the race to push the balance as much as necessary to help the group he founded 30 years ago remain in power until 2018.
During the final TV debate, Rousseff left the personal accusations to one side, conscious – like her Brazilian Social Democratic Party (PSDB) opponent Aécio Neves – of the fact that voters dislike watching the candidates discrediting one another and that the tactic hurts more than helps the accuser. In fact, a poll published on Wednesday says more than 70 percent of voters loathe the aggressive style used during the campaign.
For many weeks much of the Brazilian press was asking where Lula was and why he was not supporting Rousseff
But this is not a statistic that can affect Lula, and the PT knows it needs to attack its rival using all available resources and raise its tone to break the deadlock in the polls – similar to what it did with Socialist contender Marina Silva in the first round. It's a strategy that delivered results then and – judging by the trend in the polls, which show Rousseff ahead by a slight margin – is also doing so now.
And so, on Wednesday, Lula held a rally in his native state of Pernambuco and let rip: “In the northwest, [Brazil’s nine poorest states, the majority of which favor Dilma Rousseff and the PT] we have already heard, read, and seen how they offended us ...,” he said. “Sometimes they attack us verbally the way the Nazis attacked during World War II. They are intolerant. The other day I was saying that they are even more intolerant than Herod, who ordered the death of Jesus Christ to prevent him from becoming the man he became. And they want to finish off the PT and our president, to humiliate her, to call her irresponsible. Only a daddy’s boy could do all this.”
For many weeks, especially at the beginning of the campaign, much of the Brazilian press had been asking where Lula was and why he was not supporting Rousseff. There was a lot of speculation about their personal relationship and rumors that Rousseff’s decision to run for reelection without consulting him had supposedly not gone down well.
Lula had been the one who had chosen Rousseff as his successor in 2008, two years before he left office, and his involvement in the 2010 campaign was a decisive factor in the former minister’s victory since at the time she was neither well-known throughout Brazil nor a party heavyweight – hence his lukewarm attitude caught people’s attention. According to the press, Rousseff and Lula’s relationship had deteriorated as she tried to shake off the weight of her predecessor and mentor.
Now, all seems to have been forgotten. Lula attends a rally almost every day to play the role of attack-dog, adding that little dash of demagoguery he does so well, and protecting Rousseff from attacks to stop her getting worn down. That’s why he’s there. On Wednesday in Pernambuco he insisted on the profile/caricature of Neves as a good boy and playboy that certain PT members want to transmit. “It would be nice if he didn’t get a single vote here in the northwest because he never considered it, only when it was time to come to visit the beaches with Governor Alagoas on weekends. He never went to the backlands. He doesn’t know how the people are who live here, the people who work from dawn to dusk to bring food home.”
Translation: Dyane Jean François