BRASILIA – Former Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has pulled out of next month’s presidential election, allowing his running mate Fernando Hadded to stand in his place.
Workers’ Party leader Gleisi Hoffman announced the decision outside the police headquarters where the 72-year-old is serving a 12-year sentence.
Brazil’s top electoral court barred Lula’s candidacy less than two weeks ago due to his corruption conviction.
A letter written by Lula in his prison cell was read out to his supporters who have been camping outside the jail for five months demanding he be freed.
— Lula (@LulaOficial) September 11, 2018
In it, the former president, who governed from January 2003 until December 2010, said he would not run in the election scheduled for 7 October.
Lula served as president from 2003-2010 and remains Brazil’s most popular politician. But he is ineligible for office under Brazil’s “Clean Slate” law, which prohibits candidates from running if they have convictions that have been upheld on appeal, an initiative approved and sanctioned during his rule.
In his letter, he also named Mr. Haddad as the man to step into the breach.
Fernando Haddad, who has Lebanese roots, is a former education minister who has little name recognition outside of São Paulo, where he served as mayor.
A Datafolha poll conducted on Monday showed the support for Haddad increased from 4 to 9%, the biggest gain among the 13 candidates running for president.
The decision comes after a lengthy legal battle which culminated on 31 August when the Superior Electoral Court (TSE) ruled that he was “ineligible” to run for the presidency.
Lula’s legal team and the Workers’ Party have appealed against the decision and the Supreme Court is still due to rule on it.
In July 2017, Lula was found guilty of accepting an upgrade to a beachfront flat as a bribe from an engineering firm involved in a major corruption scheme.
Lula has always denied any wrongdoing and appealed against the verdict.
In January, an appeals court upheld the conviction and increased the sentence from the original nine-and-a-half years to 12 years.
Lula’s move comes days after a far-right candidate was stabbed at a rally. The 63-year old Jair Bolsonaro must now undergo major surgery after being attacked by a lone assailant, doctors said.