BRASILIA (Reuters) -Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva told allies on Thursday he aims to represent a seven-party center-left coalition in his challenge to incumbent Jair Bolsonaro in this October’s election.
Lula, a former union organizer leading the presidential race, has stacked his agenda with party congresses to cement that coalition, including Thursday rallies with the Brazilian Socialist Party and Sustainability Network (REDE).
“To those who have not joined us yet, our arms are open to welcome everyone who wants to recover this country,” he told reporters at a meeting with REDE.
Senator Randolfe Rodrigues pledged REDE’s support for Lula’s candidacy, but party founder Marina Silva, a former Lula environment minister, was absent. Silva left Lula’s government and she ran against his Workers Party (PT) in three bruising presidential elections.
Lula celebrated the findings of a U.N. rights committee earlier in the day that a graft case that jailed him and blocked his presidential candidacy in 2018 had violated due process. He called the ruling “extraordinarily soul-cleansing.”
Opinion surveys have shown Lula’s advantage over Bolsonaro eroding in recent months, as Bolsonaro has ramped up spending on social programs. Still, the left-wing challenger maintains a double-digit advantage over his far-right opponent in simulations of a likely runoff.
Sources close to Lula told Reuters his strategy five months from the election is to focus on gathering maximum support for an expected second-round runoff against Bolsonaro.
Some parties are maneuvering to field their own candidates but could still back Lula in the runoff, such as the Social Democratic Party and some factions of the Brazilian Democratic Movement.
Later on Thursday, Lula was welcomed by cheering supporters at a national meeting of the Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB), his main ally, where he appeared with his pick for running mate, former Sao Paulo governor Geraldo Alckmin.
Party members shouted “Out with Bolsonaro” and sang the Socialist hymn L’Internationale.
“We need to defeat Bolsonaro soundly because he is a disgrace for Brazil,” PSB president Carlos Siqueira said in a speech. Party leaders said Bolsonaro had undermined labor rights and environmental protections.
(Reporting by Lisandra Paraguassu and Anthony Boadle; editing by Brad Haynes, Alistair Bell and Richard Pullin)