By Alba Santandreu
Sao Paulo, Brazil, May 23 (EFE).- Former Brazilian President – and current presidential candidate – Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and his main political allies on Monday began stitching together the strategy with which they intend to defeat the “authoritarianism,” “fake news” and “violence” they say is being perpetrated by ultrarightist President Jair Bolsonaro as the October general election approaches.
Lula and liberal Geraldo Alckmin sat down for the first time at the table with representatives of the seven parties making up the progressive coalition that will compete in the elections, pressing the accelerator on a campaign that is beginning to take shape with less than five months to go before the balloting.
“Lula emphasized that it’s the first time that he’s sat down with the group of parties that represent the progressive, democratic, leftist and center-left field,” emphasized the president of the Worker’s Party (PT) that Lula founded, Gleisi Hoffmann, during a press conference after the former leader’s first big campaign meeting and with him leading in the voter surveys.
Hoffmann emphasized the symbolism of a meeting taking place after the criticism of Lula coming from the wings by certain allies because of his desire to centralize campaign decisions without taking into account the rest of the parties making up the coalition.
The PT president said that the reps of the seven parties will continue holding meetings all day on Monday to define the basic outlines of the campaign and the future plan to govern the nation.
They were also scheduled to discuss other issues such as the communication strategy, the preparation of agendas, along with campaign mobilization and financing.
“The PT has a greater responsibility, but we’re going to think together about the method and the planning,” Hoffmann said.
One of the main objectives of the coalition will be to pull Lula toward the political center with an eye toward attracting a more moderate range of voters, thus occupying the “third way” space, which is being presented as an alternative to both Bolsonaro and Lula himself.
The political bloc’s internal crisis deepened, however, on Monday with the decision by former Sao Paulo state Gov. Joao Doria to end his candidacy after the resistance from the core of the Brazilian Social Democratic Party.
Lula, who governed Brazil from 2003-2010, has already taken the first step to shed his image as a leftist candidate by selecting as his vice presidential running mate Alckmin, a former rival and fervent Catholic who has the approval of the investment markets and the business sector.
Nevertheless, the former union leader has made some slips by delivering a few controversial remarks directed at his most faithful voters that could compromise the support of more conservative sectors he needs to be able to win the election.
After analyzing voter surveys with the rest of the parties, Hoffmann emphasized Lula’s performance in the polls – where he is pulling about 40 percent support among those intending to vote compared with Bolsonaro’s 30 percent – and declared that the numbers “are positive” and are showing “stability.”
But she said that the election campaign will be “tough” and “hard-fought,” warning about the spread of “fake news” and “violence” by the Bolsonaro camp.
In response, she appealed for “unity” among the coalition members and the need to “broaden” the coalition to other political groups to defeat Bolsonaro, who has already said that he intends to call for an audit of the election, claiming that the current electoral system could allow the perpetration of voter fraud.
“It’s a fight by democracy against authoritarianism, by civilization against incivility,” she emphasized.
And Hoffmann added: “We have to be prepared and alert the public that everything coming from Bolsonaro is a lie.”