Lula's Fall Prompts Scramble for Substitute Among Brazil's Left

(Bloomberg) -- With diminished odds that Brazil’s Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva will run for the presidency after an appeals court upheld his corruption conviction, a host of left-wing candidates are already trying to move in on his patch.

At least half a dozen leftist parties with representatives in Congress are ready to jump into the race as Lula’s candidacy looks set to be banned. That’s double the number in the 2014 race. Even the Communist Party of Brazil, or PCdoB, which has never launched its own presidential candidate before and has always backed Lula since the country’s first free elections in 1989, says its time has come.

Lula's Fall Prompts Scramble for Substitute Among Brazil's Left

"My candidacy emerged out of the scenario of uncertainty surrounding Lula," Manuela D’Avila, a state legislator, PCdoB presidential hopeful and one of the few women running, told Bloomberg news. "Our obligation is to debate the way out of the crisis, the recovery of growth and social policies.

With over one third of voter intentions -- nearly twice that of the runner-up -- Lula’s absence would leave a void on the left of the political spectrum in Latin America’s largest nation. Yet early public opinion polls show no single challenger would inherit Lula’s political capital, which is still significant despite several years of scandal and recession under his Workers’ Party.

"It strengthens the chance of a fragmented left," said Rafael Cortez, a political analyst at Tendencias Consulting firm.

While the political space on the left looks crowded, candidates such as Ciro Gomes or Marina Silva (both ministers under Lula) stand to benefit from Temer’s low popularity rating and the tainted image of the Brazilian Social Democracy Party, or PSDB, the standard bearer of the market-friendly center-right in recent decades. Its likely presidential candidate, Geraldo Alckmin, also lacks charisma, with political risk consultancy Eurasia Group comparing him to Hillary Clinton.

For many political analysts, the 2018 race resembles Brazil’s 1989 vote, when a large number of candidates contested the first direct and free elections for president since the return to democracy, but with one key difference.

"Today there are no competitive names out there," Cortez said. "The uncertainty is huge."

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