© Reuters. Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva reacts during a press conference following the meeting with the Rede Sustentabilidade Party in Brasilia, Brazil on April 28, 2022. REUTERS / Andressa Anholete
By Lisandra Paraguassu
BRAZIL (Reuters) – Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva told allies on Thursday that he was aiming to represent a seven-party center-left coalition in his challenge to incumbent Jair Bolsonaro in the October election.
Lula, a former union organizer leading the presidential race, has stacked his agenda with party congresses to cement this coalition, including Thursday meetings with the Brazilian Socialist Party and the Sustainability Network (REDE).
“To those who have not joined us yet, our arms are open to welcome anyone who wants to restore this country,” he told reporters at a meeting with REDE.
Senator Randolfe Rodrigues promised REDE’s support for Lula’s candidacy, but party founder Marina Silva, a former Lula environment minister, was absent. Silva left Lula’s government, and she ran against his Labor Party (PT) in three violent presidential elections.
Lula celebrated the findings of a UN rights committee earlier in the day that a graft case that imprisoned him and blocked his presidential candidacy in 2018 had violated fair trial. He called the ruling “extraordinarily soul-cleansing.”
Opinion polls have shown that Lula’s advantage over Bolsonaro has eroded in recent months, as Bolsonaro has increased spending on social programs. Yet the left-wing challenger retains a double-digit advantage over his far-right opponent in simulations of a likely runoff.
Sources close to Lula told Reuters that his strategy five months after the election is to focus on gathering maximum support for an expected second round against Bolsonaro.
Some parties are in the process of fielding their own candidates, but can still support Lula in the run-up, such as the Social Democratic Party and some factions of the Brazilian democratic movement.
Later Thursday, Lula was welcomed by jubilant supporters at a national meeting of the Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB), his main ally, in which he emerged with his election as candidate, former Sao Paulo Governor Geraldo Alckmin.
Party members shouted “Out with Bolsonaro” and sang the socialist hymn L’Internationale.
“We have to defeat Bolsonaro solidly because he is a disgrace to Brazil,” PSB president Carlos Siqueira said in a speech. Party leaders said Bolsonaro had undermined labor rights and environmental protection.