SAO PAULO – A federal judge ordered the arrest of former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, giving him until Friday afternoon to turn himself into authorities. Being forced to begin serving a corruption conviction while he appeals it increases the chances that da Silva, who leads presidential preference polls, will not be able to run in October's elections. Here is a look at how his jailing could impact Brazil's political landscape.
THE ELECTORAL COURT
Even if judge Sergio Moro had not issued an arrest warrant for da Silva, he could still be ineligible to run for office under the country's Clean Slate Law, which bars candidates who have had a criminal conviction upheld. However, the Superior Electoral Tribunal, Brazil's electoral court, makes final decisions on candidacies in August. Da Silva's leftist Workers' Party has said it will register him as its candidate even if he is jailed. The party could also swap in a Plan B candidate up until mid-September.
Running second to da Silva in the polls is Congressman Jair Bolsonaro, a former army captain who has been compared to President Donald Trump. Bolsonaro defends Brazil's military dictatorship, has been fined for making sexist and racist comments, and is a staunch supporter of loosening Brazil's gun laws. If da Silva is out of the race, many of his supporters would likely go to more left-leaning candidates like Marina Silva or Guilherme Boulos. Still, many analysts believe Bolsonaro's overall chances could improve if da Silva is barred from the election, though others think his divisiveness could encourage the coalescing around a different candidate.
DA SILVA'S PLAN
On Thursday, da Silva held an emergency meeting with other leaders of the Workers' Party. The group, which included former President Dilma Rousseff, party president Gleisi Hoffmann and former Sao Paulo Mayor Fernando Haddad, came up with three main tactics to back da Silva: a permanent camp-out by supporters in front of his home in a Sao Paulo suburb, mobilization of a national campaign and continued pressure on the Supreme Federal Tribunal.
CAMPAIGN FROM JAIL?
Even if he is jailed, da Silva will have the right to campaign after being registered as an official candidate in August. He has already been traveling Brazil in a pre-candidate campaign tour. In many places he has been welcomed warmly, but not all. Two of the buses in his caravan were shot at during a recent leg of his trip that took him to the southern state of Parana. Da Silva was not in either vehicle, which were carrying journalists and guests. No one was hurt, but the incident underlined the divisive mood in the country.
Protesters for and against da Silva took to the streets in several cities before and during the Supreme Federal Tribunal's deliberations. October's general elections and the lead-up to them won't be any different. Tensions are high and political opinions are more divided than ever, adding to frictions among Brazilians.