Brazil party picks presidential backup option for Lula

Brazil's Workers' Party announced Monday that former Sao Paulo Mayor Fernando Haddad will become its presidential candidate if jailed ex-President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who leads in national polls, is barred from running in the October election.

Party chairwoman Gleisi Hoffmann said that Haddad will be the vice presidential candidate pending a ruling by electoral authorities on whether da Silva can run. She said the former mayor, who only ran for office twice, both in wealthy Sao Paulo, "will travel nationwide carrying Lula's voice."

"We opted for a strategy that assures President Lula to speak as candidate and we decided that until his judicial situation is cleared, a fellow member of the Workers' Party will speak for his campaign," Hoffmann said, referring to Haddad.

Da Silva is serving a corruption sentence which appears to ban his candidacy. He says he is innocent and is still appealing the decision. The left-leaning leader leads polls with more than 30 percent support, even though members of Brazil's top electoral court have suggested he will be barred.

Haddad has minimal support in polls so far. He was da Silva's education minister, a role he kept in the presidency of Dilma Rousseff, also of the Workers' Party.

The 55-year-old economist and lawyer won Sao Paulo's mayoral elections in 2012, but didn't even reach a runoff four years later in his attempt at re-election.

Hoffmann said Communist Party state legislator Manuela D'Avila would become the new vice presidential candidate if Haddad is put on the top of the ticket — and even if Silva is somehow cleared to run.

"Lula asked us to make a formal request for Manuela to be candidate for vice president. Her candidacy had an important role to build this unity," the Workers' Party chairwoman said.

D'Avila gave up on her presidential bid on Sunday to join the Workers' Party ticket.

Haddad said the ticket will be based "on the unwavering defense of Lula, the biggest political leader of Brazil."

"Once more we are united around him. We are going to the fifth presidential victory in a row," he said during the announcement. Haddad was responsible for crafting the Workers' Party platform for the election.

While the Workers' Party under da Silva and Rousseff has won the past four presidential elections, it has been out of power since Rousseff was impeached and removed in 2016. She was replaced by Michel Temer of the Democratic Movement Party, who had been her vice president under a coalition deal.