A supporter of Workers' Party (PT) claps hands as he listens to Brazil's former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in Porto Alegre, Brazil, on Jan. 23, 2018. Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is awaiting the outcome of his appeal against a corruption conviction, a ruling that will determine whether he will be able to compete in October presidential elections.
By Edgardo Loguercio
BRASILIA, Jan. 23 (Xinhua) -- Brazil's former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (2003-2010) is awaiting the outcome of his appeal against a corruption conviction, a ruling that will determine whether he will be able to compete in October presidential elections.
The Fourth District Federal Regional Court (TRF4) in Porto Alegre, the capital city of the state of Rio Grande do Sul in southern Brazil, is to issue a ruling on Wednesday on whether Lula should serve a nine and half year sentence and pay a sizable fine for taking bribes and money laundering.
Lula was accused of accepting an apartment from construction firm OAS in exchange for assigning the company lucrative contracts with state oil giant Petrobras. The revelations came as part of Operation Car Wash, a far-reaching investigation into graft that has snared numerous politicians.
His defense claims that he is innocent, and that the apartment not only belongs to the OAS, but that the company used it as collateral for a loan in 2010 that remains outstanding.
Lula believes the charges of wrongdoing are politically motivated to prevent him from running again for presidency. His name has consistently topped polls gauging support for potential presidential candidates, some of which show he would win in the first round.
His defense team has noted that the case against the prominent Workers' Party (PT) leader has moved at a record pace in a country known for judicial foot-dragging.
In the four years since Car Wash-related cases have come before the court deciding Lula's fate, its three-judge panel has thrown out only five of 77 convictions, so his chances of being absolved appear slim.
However, the intricacies of the legal process raises many questions.
Should he lose his appeal, his case can still be heard by higher courts, such as the Supreme Court of Justice.
How the judges rule and whether their decision is unanimous are factors that could further prolong Lula's progress through the courts, and add uncertainty to the roster of candidates.
What's more, Brazilian legal experts differ on the consequences of the ruling, whether the judges uphold his initial conviction or not.
The country's so-called Clean Record Law, for example, might come into play, as it bars those convicted of crimes from running for public office for a period of eight years.
Finally, Lula could still register as a candidate with the Supreme Electoral Court, as late as Aug. 15, as long as his case is still being heard in the courts.
This raises the specter of Lula running for president and winning, and later having his legitimacy contested by the electoral court.
In another scenario, Lula could campaign as a candidate through mid-September, then be substituted just 20 days prior to the first electoral round by another PT figure, such as the former mayor of Sao Paulo, Fernando Haddad, or the ex-governor of Bahia, Jaques Wagner.
Most political observers expect the court to ratify Lula's conviction.
No matter what, one thing is certain: the elections are likely to be bitterly disputed starting from Wednesday, when protests both in favor and against Lula are expected.
Conservatives, meanwhile, are confident that with the popular progressive out of the way, the ruling party candidate will have the best chance of winning and continuing the fiscal reforms of President Michel Temer.