Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, after days of suspense and just hours before the event scheduled for 10 pm, Brazil time, let it be known that he is travelling to Rio to participate in the last debate between the presidential candidates before Sunday’s, October 1st election.
Lula, who has a comfortable margin in the polls, so comfortable that would allow him to win the election in the first round, hasn’t appeared in any of the debates sponsored by Brazilian TV networks leading to the elections.
A scandal involving some of his close aides dealing with the acquisition of a dossier containing information to discredit his opponents seems to have led him to reconsider his participation in the televised encounter.
The president ended up following the advice of some of his closest advisors, including his education minister Fernando Haddad, the presidency’s secretary general, Luis Dulci and chief of staff Gilberto Carvalho. João Santana, his marketing man, went against the idea.
Those in favor of his participation in the debate argued that Lula should use his ability to address a crowd cultivated since the time he was a union leader in the São Paulo ABCD region.
For them the most dangerous would be senator Heloísa Helena, who was expelled from the Worker’s Party for her rebelliousness. Cristovam Buarque is considered too intellectual and boring to represent any threat and main opponent Geraldo Alckmin would be more a target (mainly the security situation when he was São Paulo governor) than a threat.
Globo network, the sponsor of the debate, has made it clear that any absence among the four main candidates will be marked by an empty chair with the name of the absent guest.
The other participants would even have a chance to ask the questions they had prepared for that absent debater. The president’s absence in the debate would have favored a bombardment of Lula, making it harder for him to guarantee an expected victory in the first round.
The president before the final decision to participate in the debate had said that he would go to the TV meeting "with an open heart." He promised to respond to all "insolences," but also assured he would keep his cool to reincarnate the "peace and love little Lula" of the past election.
The president of the National Conference of the Bishops of Brazil (CNBB), Cardinal Geraldo Majella Agnelo, told reporters today, that candidate who doesn’t attend the debate doesn’t deserve the voter’s vote.
"To skip the debate doesn’t bring any benefit to the population. To win votes, a candidate should be open and take part in the discussions," he said.
The cardinal regretted that the candidates have been talking more about scandals than proposals on how to improve peoples’ lives: "The climate in Brazil is not serene. Every day, we see more and more corruption charges."