Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva says he will not seek a third consecutive term as Brazil's leader, but will try to influence the choice of his successor who might come from outside his ruling party. "When a political leader begins to think he is indispensable, and cannot be substituted, a little dictatorship is born," Lula said in an interview in O Estado de S. Paulo newspaper on Sunday.
The former factory worker, who won the presidency of the world's fourth-largest democracy in 2002 and was re-elected last year, revealed what he is going to do when his term finishes in December 2010: "I'm going to make my grilled rabbit, which I haven't done for five years."
Although Brazil's constitution bars a president from a third consecutive term, Lula could try to muster political support to change the laws if he wanted to, as his predecessor, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, did to pass an amendment allowing leaders re-election to a second term.
The question of whether he will do so, or who might succeed him, is already a talking point in Brazilian politics less than a year into his four-year second term.
Lula, who gives interviews sparingly, said he would seek a big say in promoting his successor. "I will not stay neutral. I want to reach the end of my term in a strong position in order to influence the succession."
The candidate might not necessarily be from the Workers' Party, or PT, but from another party in the ruling coalition, he said.
"From the PT or not from the PT is a problem for the party to decide," he said. "The important thing is that the PT is ready to talk and that people are ready to have a single candidate."
He mentioned Defense Minister Nelson Jobim, who belongs to the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party, and Ciro Gomes of the Brazilian Socialist Party, as people to watch. It was also possible Brazil could have a female president, he said, without naming names. His chief of staff, Dilma Rousseff, is one of the most influential women in Brazilian politics.
A burly, charismatic figure, Lula rose from poverty in the Brazilian Northeast to the leadership of this country of 185 million after starting his political career as a union leader opposing the 1964-1985 military dictatorship.
He has won praise for stabilizing the economy with conservative fiscal policies that have brought prosperity to many, and he remains hugely popular with the poor for his welfare programs, mainly the one known as Bolsa Família (Family Voucher).
He said the ideal candidate to succeed him would continue present policies, including improving the lives of the poor and investing in public works.
The economy, which has seen exports boom, foreign reserves amassed and inflation under control, was his biggest success, he said.
When asked his biggest mistake, he said only: "My frustration is not to have done more than I did."