Geraldo Alckmin: Lula joins forces with the conservative center-right to defeat Bolsonaro in the Brazilian elections | International

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Former President Lula this Friday in São Paulo presenting Geraldo Alckmin, a former right-wing governor, as his vice-presidential candidate.Sebastian Moreira (EFE)

For Brazilians attentive to politics, the image is still very shocking. Thanks to far-right Jair Bolsonaro, two lifelong adversaries are now allies. Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has managed to get the man he defeated in the 2006 elections, Geraldo Alckmin, a center-right heavyweight, to accompany him as number two in the electoral battle to succeed Bolsonaro in the Presidency of Brazil. Both have presented this Friday in São Paulo an unthinkable alliance not so long ago.

Like Lula, Alckmin, 69, has been at the forefront of Brazilian politics for more than half a century. Twice governor of São Paulo, deputy, mayor and councilman, he was one of the strong men of the PSDB, the Brazilian Social Democracy Party, which alternated in power with the left since the end of the dictatorship until the traditional political panorama imploded and gave way to Bolsonaro’s victory. Recruiting Alckmin is the key element in the strategy of the leftist Lula, 76, to forge a broad front in defense of democracy across ideological differences. “I was already an opponent of Alckim, of Fernando Henrique (Cardoso), of (José) Serra… but we never failed in this regard.”

Alckmin has had to abandon his lifelong party to join Lula’s campaign. In the previous presidential elections, he was also the candidate of the PSDB, which obtained the worst result in its history. And besides, he was presiding over the formation when it decided to remain neutral, without recommending to its affiliates whether to support the PT or Bolsonaro in the second round.

The former Brazilian president has highlighted the vice-presidential candidate’s many years of public service. “We need the experience of Alckmin and mine to fix Brazil”, Lula declared this Friday when appearing with her vice-presidential candidate in a hotel. The leftist has insisted that winning at the polls next October may be easier than the reconstruction he says Brazil requires. “I confess that I did not imagine that in such a short time they could destroy so many things that took us so long to build”, he riveted.

Six months remain for elections that will determine whether Brazil wants the return of the PT to power or prefers to deepen the swerve to the extreme right that it gave when electing Bolsonaro in 2018, while Lula was in prison. The leftist has been leading the polls for months, but his advantage, still loose, is diminishing.

Although the defense of democracy is now the priority, Lula dedicates a large part of his campaign to daily emergencies such as inflation, which is at record levels, loss of income, hunger… that is, the effects of the deep economic crisis. It is a speech very focused on extolling the legacy of the three and a half terms in which the PT governed. However, he does not miss an opportunity to insist on the catastrophic management that the president has done with the pandemic. He has attributed half of the 660,000 deaths to his “genocidal behaviour”.

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Although the most radical wing of the PT and some of the parties to his left criticized Alckmin’s landing as a capitulation to the right, Lula has managed to iron out these reticence with the argument that the seriousness of the situation requires great pacts and the height of you look “I am certain that the PT will approve his name as vice president,” he said when presenting the alliance.

Alongside Alckmin, who is a conservative Catholic, Lula has avoided any reference to thorny issues such as abortion. Lula has created controversy in recent days by defending that the interruption of pregnancy should be treated as a matter of public health. The next day she insisted on this idea, but after pointing out that he personally is against it and remembering that he is a father, grandfather and great-grandfather.

The founder of the Workers’ Party knows that in order to win a third term, votes from the left flank are by no means enough for him. It is essential to attract the center and the center right that voted for Bolsonaro, blank or abstained. Those disillusioned with Bolsonaro are the most sought after electorate. Four years ago, hatred of the PT was widespread and it was crucial for millions of apparently moderate voters to give their trust to a veteran deputy with a liberal economic agenda and nostalgic for the dictatorship like Bolsonaro.

Alckmin has had to abandon his lifelong party, where he had lost relevance and which is also experiencing its lowest hours, to consummate the alliance with the left. He has joined the Socialist Party of Brazil (PSB). Although polls indicate that the polarization represented by Lula and Bolsonaro leaves little more room, the PSDB and other small center parties continue to try to build an alternative. The presidential candidacy of former judge Sergio Moro is moribund.

Brazil has been in the pre-election campaign for more than a year, practically since Lula was surprisingly rehabilitated when the judges annulled the convictions for corruption that landed him in jail. It didn’t take long for him to start establishing contacts right and left to build alliances beyond his ideological territory (much broader than that of the PT) and throughout the national territory.

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