Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on Wednesday said he still has not made a definitive decision on whether he will run for president in next year’s presidential election, after a court moved to clear him of criminal charges.
Lula’s corruption convictions were quashed by a Supreme Court judge on Monday allowing him to try again for political office. On Wednesday, he made a lengthy speech that had the feel of a campaign event.
“Health, jobs and justice for Brazil,” read a banner hanging above the stage at the metalworkers’ union in Sao Bernardo do Campo, where Lula’s political career began as an organiser in the 1980s.
Lula said he would tour the country and speak with supporters before making a final decision on his candidacy.
“My head has no time to think about the 2022 candidacy,” Lula said. “When the moment to discuss the 2022 candidacy comes we will have immense pleasure to announce to Brazil that we are thinking about 2022.”
“And he also opened up for the possibility of a coalition,” said Monica Yanakiew, Al Jazeera’s television reporter in Rio de Janeiro.
During his speech, Lula also attacked far-right President Jair Bolsonaro directly for his record in handling the coronavirus pandemic and the economy.
“Do not follow that imbecile,” he told his supporters.
“The people don’t need arms. The people need jobs,” he said, deriding Bolsonaro’s pro-gun policy.
Lula was wildly popular during his 2003-10 presidency, when poverty fell as Brazil boomed, thanks in part to commodities prices. He left office with an approval rating in the mid-80s. But his star dimmed in recent years as Brazil’s economy slumped and corruption scandals involving the former leader and those around him gained traction.
Even so, he was leading in the polls for the 2018 presidential race before the initial conviction ruled him out as a candidate. That opened the door for Bolsonaro, a right-wing lawmaker who won the election with the image of an anti-corruption outsider.
The charismatic former union leader is a polarising figure but still beloved by much of Brazil’s working class for bringing millions out of poverty through generous social welfare programmes.
“I don’t think for a moment, that he was guilty of corruption,” his lawyer Geoffrey Robertson told Al Jazeera English in a televised interview on Tuesday.
Monday’s court decision, Robertson added, “will pave the way for Lula probably winning next year’s election” as the left-wing leader maintains “fervent support” among half Brazilians, and remains very popular, especially among the country’s poor.
Lula is the only one of the 10 potential 2022 candidates who outperformed the president in a survey by polling company Ipec, published in the newspaper O Estado de S Paulo last week.
It found that 50 percent of people polled “would certainly” or “could” vote for Lula, compared with 38 percent for Bolsonaro.
Bolsonaro responded to the court ruling, calling the administration of Lula’s Workers’ Party “catastrophic”. He said, “I think the Brazilian people don’t even want a candidate like that in 2022, much less think about his possible election.”