Fernando Haddad featured in his first presidential debate Thursday as candidates bid for public trust and support, two weeks before the first round of voting in October's general election. The debate was the fourth in a series of debates, but the first for a candidate from the Workers' Party after former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, was barred from participating in the previous events and later forced to transfer his presidential candidacy to Haddad.
Haddad was the main target for other candidates during the three-hour debate. He, however, stood firm on PT proposals, which call for the strengthening and funding of public institutions, along with a pledge to fight corruption and the promiscuous relations between the public and private sectors that have become more pronounced in recent years.
The former Mayor of Sao Paulo (2013 to 2017) also criticized a recent labor reform proposal by Brazil's Senate-imposed President Michel Temer, which was passed by Brazilian legislators, and a 20-year freeze on public spending, which observers said would limit the state's ability to invest in Brazil's social and education sectors, among others.
Despite a good showing, his critics were sharp in their comments about him and reforms under the presidencies of Lula and his successor, Dilma Rousseff. Haddad, however, fended off the criticism telling Former Brazilian Finance Minister and candidate for the conservative Brazilian Democratic Movement (MDB), Henrique Meirelles, the current government of Temer and his right-wing sympathizers: "Sir, you may have recovered the confidence of banksters, but not the Brazilian people."
Right-leaning candidates Geraldo Alckmin and Alvaro Dias were vile toward Haddad during the TV Aparecida debate.
“Instead of doing some self-reflection, the Worker’s Party releases candidates in front of a prison,” said Alckmin, who is polling at about 10 percent.
While Dias, who has minimal poll support, was even more aggressive in attacking Haddad.
“Haddad, you are coming to this campaign as a spokesman for tragedy and a representative of chaos,” Dias said.
Haddad was conciliatory in his reply to those attacks praising the progress in social and economic reforms made under Lula’s administration and promising to turn the country away from Temer's deeply unpopular austerity-based policies.
He appealed to Brazilians to see the election as a chance for the country to heal and settle its highly-polarized social and political climate. “Brazil has to plant peace, to harvest peace,” Haddad said.
Other presidential hopefuls participating in the debate included: Alvaro Dias of the We Can movement (Pode); Ciro Gomes of the Democratic Labor Party (PDT); Geraldo Alckmin of the Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB); Guilherme Boulos of the Liberty and Socialism Party (PSOL); Henrique Meirelles of the Brazilian Democratic Movement (MDB); and Marina Silva of the Sustainability Network (Rede).
Before the debate got underway, Joyce Ribeiro, the mediator, announced that Jair Bolsonaro of the Social Liberal Party (PSL) would not be participating since he remains hospitalized at Albert Einstein Hospital in Sao Paulo after being stabbed during a presidential campaign in Juiz de Fora, (Minas Gerais) on Sept. 6.
Brazil's fourth presidential debate took place in Sao Paulo. It was organized by the National Conference of Priests of Brazil and Catholic media outlets and broadcast on TV Aparecida.