Brazil’s jailed ex-leader Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva tapped his runningmate Fernando Haddad on Tuesday to replace him on the ballot in next month’s presidential election, bowing out of the race after he was barred from seeking a new term.
The switch was approved at a meeting of the Workers Party in the southern city of Curitiba — where Lula has been held since April for corruption — as the clock ticked down on a court-ordered deadline for him to name a stand-in.
“The decision has been made,” a party official told AFP.
Hundreds of Lula supporters were gathered near the jail where he is being held. Haddad read a letter there from his mentor anointing him as his political heir.
“It is time to get out on the streets, with heads high, and win this election!” Haddad told supporters.
The decision came less than two weeks after Brazil’s Superior Electoral Tribunal ruled that the popular but polarizing former president cannot run while serving his 12-year prison sentence.
Though jailed, the 72-year-old Lula was the frontrunner in polls, and his removal from the race has scrambled the field, catapulting right-wing populist Jair Bolsonaro to the fore.
Bolsonaro, a polarizing figure who has been criticized for outbursts deemed racist, misogynist and homophobic, was stabbed while on the campaign trail last week.
He is not expected to appear at any rallies before the October 7 polls, but remains on the ballot.
Haddad, a former mayor of Sao Paulo who also served as Lula’s education minister, faces a race against time with the first round of voting less than a month away.
His ability to hold on to Lula’s base will be key if he and his expected runningmate, youthful communist Manuela d’Avila, are to reach the second round, set for October 28.