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Foreign Policy Centre

Ideas for a fairer world

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Lula's tumour upsets Brazilian politics

By Thiago de Aragao.

It is as yet not known what stage former president Lula's laryngeal tumor is at. However, the mere hypothesis that he is seriously ill is a strong blow to national politics.

Lula most certainly has an important role with regards to the government's stability and, especially, in maintaining political base unity. Without Lula, many of the allies, even within the PT itself, would disperse and the conflicts situation would be even greater than it currently is.

Besides his role as a stabilizer, Lula is still considered a real political possibility for 2014. Notwithstanding the fact that he has declared on numerous occasions that he will not run for the Planalto Palace and that Dilma Rousseff is the natural candidate for reelection, it is a well-known fact that he could be candidate. Should Rousseff not be successful in promoting unity of the political base around herself, Lula would be a person capable of bringing the allies together.

Thus, at this moment in which the news surfaces without greater details and without knowing the precise prognosis of the disease, the political world is experiencing a moment of great tension; and certainly the most serious moment of the Rousseff administration, inasmuch that Lula has a politically strategic role.

Initially, Lula's illness may even strengthen the government politically. The motion caused by the news may generate more unity and even more popular support for Rousseff. However, behind the scenes, the news came as a bombshell and has caused doubts and uncertainties.

Within the short-term scenario, Lula will step away from politics in order to treat his illness. A source close to the situation told Reuters that, besides chemotherapy as informed by the Sírio-Libanês Hospital, Lula will also be submitted to radiotherapy. In all, the treatment is expected to last for three months. He has canceled all his national and international trips up to January 2012.

There is no doubt whatsoever that this is a serious problem for the PT. After all, following an agenda targeted at international events, Lula was going to more energetically dedicate himself to negotiations surrounding the municipal elections. Its worthwhile remembering that on November 27 the PT party will have its primaries to choose the party's candidate for the São Paulo City Hall. The former president also commands the preparation of the PT party's electoral strategy for the 2012 municipal elections in various important cities.

With the PT weakened by Lula's current frailty, the government may become more dependent on the PMDB.