Da Silva’s candidate targeted in his 1st Brazil debate

September 21, 2018

Brazil's presidential candidate for the Workers' Party Fernando Haddad speaks at a campaign rally, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2018. Haddad has taken the place of barred former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva after the former president was barred from running because of a corruption conviction. Da Silva had been leading polls despite serving a prison sentence. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)

SAO PAULO (AP) — The presidential candidate hand-picked by jailed former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was the main target in his first televised debate Thursday.

Left-leaning Fernando Haddad has risen to second place in opinion polls with backing in the high teens in less than three weeks, but he did not take part in the first three TV debates for next month’s national elections.

Far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro, who leads the polls with about 28 percent support, is still recovering in a hospital after being stabbed Sept. 6 and did not participate.

Right-leaning candidates Geraldo Alckmin and Alvaro Dias were the most acid toward Haddad during the TV Aparecida debate.

“Instead of making some self-criticism, the Worker’s Party releases candidates in front of a prison,” said Alckmin, who is at about 10 percent in the polls heading into Oct. 7 first round of voting.

Haddad was tapped as the Worker’s Party candidate Sept. 11 after da Silva, who had been the nominee, was barred from running by Brazil’s electoral court because of his corruption conviction.

Dias, who has minimal poll support, was even more aggressive in attacking Haddad.

“Haddad, you are coming to this campaign as a spokesman of the tragedy and a representative of chaos,” Dias said. “The Workers’ Party has become a philosophy of failure, a belief in ignorance and a herald of intolerance.”

Left-leaning Ciro Gomes, who is running third in the polls, was more moderate.

“Why should voters believe these promises for an administration led by you if your party was in office for 14 years and didn’t do it,” Gomes said.

Haddad praised da Silva’s administration, promised to bring economic growth back and blamed the highly unpopular President Michel Temer for Brazil’s economic slump.

He also appealed for Brazilians to heal the country’s current deep polarization. “Brazil has to seed peace to collect peace,” Haddad said.

Although Bolsonaro was not present, he also was a target. Alckmin called him “an adventure,” and centrist Marina Silva labeled him “an extremist.”

With 13 candidates in the race, it is considered unlikely that anyone will get the 50 percent of the votes needed to win the opening round outright. The top two finishers will advance to a runoff election Oct. 27.

Update hourly