Former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva

Former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva

Former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is now looking less likely to sweep back into power in October 2018 after the appeal courts moved swiftly to set a January 2018 date for deciding if a prison sentence against him will be upheld.

Lula was sentenced to more than nine years in jail after his July 2017 conviction for involvement in the Operação Lava Jato (Operation Car Wash) money laundering and corruption scandal. A court in the southern city of Porto Alegre will rule on his appeal on 24 January.

The outcome of that hearing may also decide the issue of whether Lula can run in October 2018 presidential elections in which he is currently the frontrunner, although his lawyers will have scope for arguing otherwise.

Lula da Silva’s problems open up a gap for a centre-right presidential candidate, but the poor electoral appeal of São Paulo’s Governor Geraldo Alckmin — and his naming last week in some alleged irregularities with the Partido da Social Democracia Brasileira campaign funding — could leave the field more open for populist right-wing former army officer Jair Bolsonaro, who is currently second to Lula de Silva in the polls. There is still time for new centre-right candidates to appear and current Finance Minister Henrique Meirelles and Chamber of Deputies speaker Rodrigo Maia are among the alternative candidates.

Lula was very popular during a 2003-2010 two-term presidency and his strong association with social welfare policies has a major appeal among poorer Brazilians as the country slowly emerges from recession. Lula’s reputation has, however, been damaged by corruption revelations and steep economic decline that the country suffered under his handpicked successor, former president Dilma Rousseff.

The last opinion poll — published this week by Estado de São Paulo newspaper’s Ipsos Institute — suggested that Lula da Silva’s lead is increasing and that he would now win 45% of the vote followed by Bolsonaro (21%) and Alckmin (19%). He does, however, also have the highest negative vote.

By way of comparison the proportion of people who considered President Michel Temer’s government is ‘bad’ or ‘terrible’ recently fell from 77% in September to 74% in early December.

This segment is taken from our new Brazil Politics & Security publication. If you wish learn more about this topic, receive a free copy, or discuss the paper with us, then contact our consultancy team