Brazil's first presidential debate for the October's general elections took place Thursday, just 59 days before the first round of voting. Despite leading in every electoral poll taken by Vox Populi, Ibope, Datafolha, Data Poder 360, Instituto Parana, the National Confederation of Transportation/MDA and Ipsos, former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who has been jailed in Curitiba's federal police headquarters since April 7, was not allowed to participate in the event.
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In Lula's absence, far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro of the Social Liberal Party was the main target of other presidential hopefuls. In recent polls, which have included Lula, Bolsonaro has consistently appeared in second place.
Liberty and Socialism Party candidate Guilherme Boulos called out Bolsonaro, saying that “everybody knows that you are machista, racist (and) homophobic.”
Boulos also mentioned Lula's name during the debate, saying “Good night to President Lula, who should be here, but is unduly in jail in Curitiba while (Senate-imposed president Michel) Temer is free in Brasilia.”
Former Finance Minister Henrique Meirelles, who is running for the Brazilian Democratic Movement, took aim at Bolsonaro's brash style of addressing the public, saying that “jobs cannot be created by screaming,” according to the Washington Post.
Alvaro Dias also criticized Bolsonaro's offensive remarks toward women, reminding voters that the presidential hopeful once suggested that women get paid less than men because they “get pregnant.”
Other candidates participating in the debate included Marina Silva (Sustainability Network), Ciro Gomes (Democratic Labour Party), Geraldo Alckmin (Brazilian Social Democracy Party) and Cabo Daciolo (Patriota).
Lula's request to participate in the debate was denied by a federal court.
“The decision to exclude me from the debate... violates the right of the Brazilian people and also the (presidential) candidates to discuss proposals related to my candidacy,” Lula wrote in a statement. He added that it also violates the right of candidates to “look him in the eye while criticizing” him, and allowing him the chance to respond.
“It also violated the freedom of the press, impeding a means of communication to fulfill its duty to inform and prohibits the public from exercising their right to be informed.”
Despite his conviction and imprisonment for corruption, events that many legal experts and observers attribute to lawfare and a salacious mainstream media campaign, Lula has topped every 2018 electoral poll conducted by Vox Populi, Ibope, Datafolha, Data Poder 360, Instituto Parana, the National Confederation of Transportation/MDA and Ipsos.
Lula's two terms in office were marked by a slew of social programs, lifting millions of Brazilians out of poverty and removing the country from the United Nations World Hunger Map. He left office with a record approval rating of 83 percent in 2011, according to Datafolha.