Judges decide the election in Brazil

“Before the law and on the seas one is in God’s hand.” No doubt, ex-President Lula and his lawyers are unlikely to give themselves over to their destinies during the trial before the appellate court in Porto Allegre on Wednesday. In July last year Lula, who was clearly leading in the polls for the presidential elections in October, was sentenced to 9½ years in prison for corruption and money laundering; now the three presiding judges could dispel all his worries if they acquit him and smooth his path back into the presidential palace. However, financial market circles do not expect such an outcome, so that here the potential for a big surprise is all the greater. Lula has already indicated that he would rescind some of the reforms made by the current government, meaning that the Real will presumably respond poorly to such a decision. Yet even if the original sentence against Lula were upheld, it would not bury Lula’s ambitions. Lula’s camp has already indicated that it will appeal again, a process that could last until shortly before the elections. Moreover, in such an event major protests can be expected throughout the country. The strong support in the polls for Lula may seem a little surprising from the outside, but is a sign of the deep division within Brazilian society and the general rejection of politicians, who are in principle all suspected of corruption and among whom Lula is considered only a minor sinner. During Lula’s period in office (2003 to 2010), the economic conditions of many Brazilians improved noticeably, not least owing to revenue from higher commodity prices.

The middle-right coalition led by President Temer has not yet agreed on a joint candidate for the presidential election, and for any government candidate the economic rebound is likely to come too late and bring too little to save the coalition’s chances in the elections. The considerable division within society can also be seen from the fact that polls currently show right-wing member of parliament Bolsonaro in second place. The long-standing parliamentarian has taken the limelight on several occasions with provocative statements and positions himself above all as the champion of fierce security policies. Bolsonaro has among other things gone on public record lauding the days of the Brazilian military dictatorship.

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