Who is Fernando Haddad? A look at the leftist Brazilian presidential candidate

World Today

Fernando Haddad is only running for president because former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva couldn’t do it. The former mayor of São Paulo only became the Workers’ Party candidate after the electoral court barred Lula from running.

His opponents say he’s just a stand in – and that Lula da Silva would effectively run the country from jail, where’s he’s serving a 12-year sentence on corruption charges.

CGTN’s Paulo Cabral profiles the Workers’ Party candidate.

“We were all given a mission by former president Lula. The mission of looking into the eyes of the people and help them to remember the good days we lived because we built together a different country,” said Haddad in a speech the day he was declared the party’s candidate.

“We’ll tell the people: we felt the same pain. But it’s not time to go back home head down. But hold our heads high up and win this election.”

His former deputy mayor, a current Communist Party official, argues that Haddad would serve as the head of a larger political movement.

“This will be a government representing a project for Brazil, of a group of political forces. And Lula is the biggest representation of this project, that includes parties like the Workers’ Party and the Communist Party of Brazil,” said Nadia Campeão.

“Fernando Haddad has his own qualifications to run a fantastic government but I think he will always take Lula’s opinion into account.”

Before entering politics, the 55-year-old Haddad was a university professor with degree in law, a master’s degree in economics and a doctorate in philosophy.

His academic adviser during his PhD studies at the University of São Paulo, Paulo Arantes, said he was a hardworking student.

“When he was doing his PhD his father fell ill and he had to take over the family business, which was a fabric wholesale shop,” told Paulo Arantes.

“I remember him complaining about that. He was exhausted from reading until late at night after he closed the family’s shop.”

After earning his PhD in 1996, Haddad ran the family business and taught at the university before entering politics.

His first high-profile position was as Education Minister in Lula da Silva’s government in 2005. He would go on to win his first run for office in 2012- as mayor of São Paulo. But four years later he lost his reelection bid.

Fernando Haddad’s conciliatory style and modern image were key elements in the choice of his name to run for the Workers’ Party. He also has a big advantage in not having been touched by the corruption probes that hit his party and put many of its officials in jail, including former president Lula da Silva.

As Haddad reaches the second round, a big question is whether his clean past would be enough to overcome the disappointment and disdain felt by much of Brazil’s society – toward the Workers’ Party – known as PT.

“In Brazil today we have a clear cut division in the society. A sector that hates PT… and I think this is a problem. It’s a kind of irrational hate against PT. It’s very divisive and so some people think that they won’t vote for PT, it doesn’t matter what can happen,” said politics professor at Getulio Vargas Foundation, Claudio Couto.

“It will be very difficult for him if he doesn’t establish bridges between PT and the other parties of the center.”

Marcio Pochmann – a Worker’s Party Candidate running for Parliament and among those responsible for the Haddad campaign’s economic proposals – says moderation is what’s on offer.

“The Worker’s Party was in power for 13 years and our economic policies were always gradual, without major ruptures. And this is what we have also in our program for the next government,” said Marcio Pochmann

Winning the election won’t be easy for Fernando Haddad — but if he does, what comes next would likely be even more challenging, leading a country deeply hurt and divided by political and economic crises – and forging a unifying path forward.