The fallout of the Brazilian anti-corruption enquiry, nicknamed Operation Car Wash, continues apace. Throughout two Presidential terms (2003 – 2011) ex-President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, known as Lula, spent billions of reais tackling poverty within Brazil, making him a widely popular figure at the heart of this c o r r u p t i o n scandal, leaving office with vast 80 percent approval ratings. Seven years later he has been imprisoned for twelve years on corruption charges, having been found guilty in July 2017. The Supreme Court decided on 5 April 2018 that he must be incarcerated whilst he appeals the verdict. Throughout proceedings, Lula has maintained his innocence and repeatedly accused the charges of being politically motivated. Lula defied his imprisonment order for two days, spending them in refuge in a trade union building near Sao Paulo, surrounded by crowds of passionate supporters. However, on 8 April the former President surrendered to police, despite attempts by his supporters to prevent him from doing so.
Operation Car Wash has accused officials, including Lula, of receiving bribes in return for warding contracts to construction companies for the state-owned oil firm Petrobas. The enquiry also accused Lula’s hand-picked successor, ex-President Dilma Rousseff (both pictured, right), who was successfully impeached in 2016 on corruption charges, and the current President Michel Temer has had similar corruption allegations levied at him in August 2017.
Before Lula was imprisoned, he was the Worker’s Party candidate for the October 2018 Presidential elections. Leader of the Party, Gleisi Hoffman, has repeatedly declared support for Lula and reiterated his innocence. A poll by MDA, taken between 28 February – 4 March 2018, with the hypothetical assumption that Lula could stand, showed the Worker’s Party with the highest voter intention at 33.4 percent.
With Lula unable to stand, the fallout for moderate voters could be astronomical, as the candidate with the second highest support is the far-right Jair Bolsonaro. With other candidates failing to reach a percentage in double figures, it raises the possibility of a populist surge and the creation of a Lulashaped political void. Any candidate will look to capitalise on promising to address problems caused by the fallout of Operation Car Wash by reducing unemployment, which reached 12.6 percent, and economic stimulus after a recession saw GDP reduce by eight percent (2014-2017).
With two ex-Presidents caught in the scandal, Brazil’s democratic system has been damaged and the voters are left without a clear alternative.
Will support continue for the Worker’s Party from their core voter, the lower-middle income worker, or will they look elsewhere for leadership? Regardless, Operation Car Wash has torn apart the Brazilian establishment, with few left standing.
This article was originally credited to another writer, however has been changed to reflect the correct author Jake Morris.