Brazil’s Supreme Court has annulled all convictions against former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, commonly known as Lula, a decision that could allow the leftist popular politician to run in the country’s 2022 presidential election.
Supreme Court Justice Edson Fachin said on Monday that the court in the southern city of Curitiba that had found Lula guilty of corruption and money laundering had lacked the jurisdiction to try him and that he must be retried in federal courts in the capital, Brasilia.
Lula’s legal team said in a note on Monday that the ruling was recognition that the former president was innocent.
The ruling paves the way for the return of Lula — whose conviction prevented him from running in the 2018 presidential race — to the political arena and challenging far-right populist President Jair Bolsonaro.
Bolsonaro expressed hope that the decision would be overturned by the full Supreme Court.
The office of Brazil’s prosecutor general said it would appeal the ruling.
According to analysts, a potential candidacy of Lula would likely push Bolsonaro to further embrace populist measures to bolster support and to abandon the economic reforms he ran on in 2018.
“With Lula eligible, the chance of this current government going totally towards populism increases even more,” Alfredo Menezes, managing partner at Armor Capital, said.
Recent opinion polls show Lula in the lead among the potential 2022 candidates.
Last week, the O Estado de S.Paulo newspaper published a survey, conducted by polling company Ipec, which found that 50% of the 2,002 people it had interviewed “would certainly” or “could” vote for Lula, compared with 38% for Bolsonaro.
It also showed that some 44% of respondents said they would never vote for Lula, while 56% would never vote for Bolsonaro.
Lula led Latin America’s biggest country and largest economy between 2003 and 2011.
The 75-year-old charismatic Lula is popular among much of Brazil’s working class for lifting millions out of poverty through generous social welfare programs. He was convicted of taking bribes from engineering firms in return for public contracts in 2018 and was released in late 2019 pending his appeal. He has constantly denied the charges, describing them as politically motivated.