Lula, Bolsonaro get started on runoff campaigns

By Carlos Meneses

Sao Paulo, Oct 3 (EFE).- Allies of Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on Monday asked the former Brazilian president to go into the presidential election runoff “with humility” as he faces off against ultrarightist President Jair Bolsonaro and seeks the support of centrist voters to guarantee victory in the second voting round on Oct. 30.

One day after the first round of the election, in which Lula won a plurality of 48.4 percent to Bolsonaro’s 43.2 percent, the leader of the socialist Workers Party (PT) decided to meet with his campaign committee in a Sao Paulo hotel to work out the strategy they will follow with an eye on the runoff vote.

From the top echelons of the PT, officials are insisting that reinforcing the message that the first round result was “a victory,” despite the bitter aftertaste left by the fact that Lula was not able to get over the 50 percent threshold, as a number of pre-election voter surveys said was a real possibility, to win the presidency outright.

They also congratulated one another over the fact that the party Lula has led with a firm hand since its founding in 1980 has revived its electoral fortunes in just four years.

In 2018, Lula was in prison, convicted of corruption although that sentence was nullified last year, and Bolsonarism was on the ascendant. But in 2022, the PT only just barely missed taking back the presidency in the first round, its top officials emphasized.

The PT’s top leadership also unanimously agreed in the coming days to “speak with all democrats” to fashion a united and even broader front than they had created for the first roune, when they gathered together about 10 different parties to back Lula.

The first objective is to seek the support of Sen. Simone Tebet and labor leader Ciro Gomes, who came in third and fourth in the presidential race and who together received more than 7 percent – or 8.5 million – of the votes. For the moment, however, both of those former presidential hopefuls are asking for more time before they made any statements in that regard.

“It’s time for all democrats to join together so that we can preserve and broaden our democracy,” ecologist Marina Silva, who won her race for a seat in the Chamber of Deputies and reconciled with Lula prior to the elections, said.

Silva emphasized that “it’s everyone’s responsibility” to stop “Bolsonaro’s war” against” the country’s “public policies and institutions.”

To accomplish that, however, she called for “great caution” and “not to treat all people who voted” for the retired army captain as “fascists.”

“We need to have a great deal of humility to hold that dialogue,” she added.

Meanwhile, lawmaker Andre Janones, who withdrew from his presidential campaign to join with Lula, said he was “confident” and emphasized the importance of “showing the power of the (PT’s) base” in the weeks prior to the runoff vote.

More direct was former Sao Paulo state Gov. Marcio Franca, who also allied with Lula, although he did not attain his objective of being elected to the Senate as he was defeated by a former Bolsonaro Cabinet minister for the post.

In remarks to journalists just moments before the meeting with Lula, Franca demanded that the former lathe-operator and union leader, who governed Brazil from 2003 to 2020, shift his political stance more toward the center and try to entice former Bolsonaro supporters in the president’s political bastions.

In that regard, he called for attention to small farmers, militarized police officers and evangelist believers, this last group having mainly allied itself with Bolsonaro in defending ultraconservative values, such as rejecting abortion.

“We have to broaden the conversations,” he said.

Meanwhile, Bolsonaro got started on his own runoff effort on Monday from the seat of government in Brasilia, where he welcomed some of the candidates for regional government posts who also failed to secure outright majorities in their races and thus will have to go into runoff elections.

Regarding Sunday’s election result, the president spoke via his favorite medium, the social networks, to encourage his supporters to remain mobilized.

“Keep your focus! One of the main objectives was achieved,” the ultrarightist leader wrote, alluding to the fact that he had managed to advance to a second electoral round – despite trailing Lula, who was approaching 50 pct. or more, by double digits in all the pre-election voter surveys – and to the good results achieved by the right in legislative elections around the country.

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