On 8 March, Brazilian Supreme Court judge Edson Fachin suspended four corruption charges against ex-president Lula.
The charges were related to a triplex apartment, a farm and donations to the Lula institute, all allegedly given to him as bribes. Lula had previously been found guilty on those charges. He went to prison for 580 days, and was barred from running for the presidency against Bolsonaro in 2019.
The charges were suspended with the reasoning that Sergio Moro was not the “natural” judge for the case, so in theory a judgement on whether Lula is guilty of corruption or not is still due.
Immediately, the suspension of the charges means that, if he doesn’t get found guilty of anything else until October 2022, Lula is now deemed “electable” again. The flip side is that investigations of misconduct against Sergio Moro are also now suspended.
Lula is currently the only candidate shown in polls to be likely to win against Bolsonaro on a second round. The PT (Workers’ Party) has not yet confirmed Lula’s candidacy, and, since there isn’t a grassroots democratic process for the choice of presidential candidate in the PT, we are likely to know for sure only in 2022. But Lula’s speech on the day his charges were dropped was a not-so-subtle nudge about the possibilities.
Lula’s speech was watched live online by millions of people, and was extremely popular. A large part of it was what was to be expected: he harshly criticised Bolsonaro’s government and his handling of the pandemic, and pointed out how his government would have done better.
He also made clear moves to reach out to the centre. When criticising Bolsonaro’s policies to legalise ownership of guns, he said that the people in real need of guns are in “the armed forces and the police”. Lula also said that the markets should like him, if “they want to invest in productive things” and “want people consuming more” but should fear him if “they want to make money off selling off the state patrimony”.
Other likely left-wing candidates, such as Guilherme Boulos of PSOL (originating in a left-wing split from the PT in 2004), have announced they will step back from the 2022 elections to increase Lula’s chances of getting to the second round. The alternative would be a second round of Bolsonaro vs. a “liberal” right wing ticket — Doria (São Paulo’s current mayor, known for controversial social cleansing policies), Luciano Hulk (a liberal game show presenter), or Sergio Moro (judge responsible for Lula’s judgement and imprisonment and Bolsonaro’s ex-minister of justice).