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  • Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva

    Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva | Photo: EFE

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The Workers' Party is counting on former President Lula da Silva to bring the left-wing force back to glory in the 2018 elections.

Brazil’s most popular politician, former President Luiz Inacio “Lula” da Silva, continues to hold a strong lead in the polls for the 2018 presidential race despite what he has condemned as a coordinated attempt by his rivals to sully his name, a new survey by Brazil’s Datafolha revealed Monday.

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According to the poll, Lula widened his lead over the opposition compared to a previous Datafolha survey released in July, locking in a position as the clear favorite with 25 percent of voters.

Lula’s closest contender, former ally-turned-rival Marina Silva of the Green Party — who failed to secure a spot in the runoff election in 2010 against Lula’s successor, ousted President Dilma Rousseff, and is increasingly backed by evangelicals — trails behind the front-runner with 15 percent. Conservative Senator Aecio Neves follows with 11 percent.

Meanwhile, unelected President Michel Temer, installed in August when Rousseff was impeached in a move widely condemned as a parliamentary coup, tanked in the poll with support of just 4 percent of voters. However, the question of Temer’s popularity in the 2018 presidential election is moot, since he is banned from running for office for eight years due to election fraud — a fact that did not stop him from becoming president by bypassing elections.

In runoff election scenarios, the poll found that Lula would win over right-wing rivals Aecio Neves and Temer’s Foreign Minister Jose Serra, who lost the election to Lula in 2002 when the left-wing Workers’ Party, also known as the PT, first took power in the South American country.

However, in a runoff scenario pitting Lula against evangelical-backed Marina Silva, the poll projected the latter to win.

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The poll comes after the PT confirmed last week that Lula will be the party’s candidate for 2018. Until recently, the PT was the dominant political force in Brazil after championing social programs and wealth distribution for more than 15 years in government. The removal of Rousseff from office dealt a heavy blow to the PT and its achievements, as the Temer government has moved swiftly to roll back social programs and institutionalize neoliberalism.

The poll also comes as former right-wing President Fernando Henrique Cardoso ruled out in an interview with local media Monday the possibility of gunning for Brazil’s top office again amid speculation that he could head the government if Temer is forced to step down.

According to another new Datafolha poll released Sunday, 63 percent of Brazilians believe that Temer should resign before the end of the year to trigger fresh elections ahead of the 2018 presidential race.

Lula, who was president from 2003 to 2010, remains popular despite the fact that he — like many of his top rivals, including Temer — is facing corruption allegations. He and his supporters have condemned the accusations as a political campaign aimed at tarnishing his image to sabotage his candidacy in 2018.

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