For the past four years Brazil has been the center of massive internal corruption probes. The largest probe, Operacao Lava Jato (Operation Car Wash), has led to prison sentences of top business executives and politicians, and has caused mass layoffs to the tune of 100,000 employees and billions of dollars in fines. Thousands of politicians have been swept up in the probes having been the recipients of bribes. Among those politicians is former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.
On January 24th, a three-judge panel at a federal court unanimously upheld the convictions of corruption and money-laundering against Lula. The charges against him stem from a beach house he accepted from a construction firm. In return the construction company was granted contracts from the state-owned Petrobras oil company during Lula’s time in office.
The court ruling has large implications for the upcoming presidential election later this year in October. Of all potential presidential candidates, Lula is by far the most popular. Currently he leads all other candidates by polling with 36% support—double that of his nearest rival Jair Bolsonaro.
When Lula was previously president he signed what is known as the ficha limpa (clean record) law into effect. The law bars candidates whose convictions have been upheld by an appeals court for eight years. Lula shows no signs of letting that law deter him from running in this year’s presidential election. If he runs, which all indications are he intends to do that, it could set up a constitutional showdown between the ficha impa law and what is determined to be the will of the people.
Lula has until August 15th, to register as an official candidate, and it is not until then that the ficha limpa law can be evoked which does not give much time for courts to rule before the election. Lula can appeal any ruling against him and still be able to campaign. It is possible that he could win the election by the time Brazil’s courts make a final ruling. This would cause much political chaos in a country hit hard by political corruption.