The Workers’ Party in Brazil named jailed former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on Saturday as its nominee for the country’s top job.
Delegates of the left-leaning party confirmed da Silva, who served two terms as Brazil’s president between 2003 and 2010, with enthusiastic approval at a convention in Sao Paulo.
Since March, the former president has been jailed on a corruption conviction, but he denies any wrongdoing and claims he is being politically persecuted.
Members of Brazil’s top electoral court have suggested he will be barred from running in October’s elections. But da Silva leads polls for the office by a large margin, and surveys show voters would lend their support to another Workers’ Party candidate if he cannot participate.
The party is not expected to name his running mate until Monday.
In a recorded message to the convention, da Silva said that “it is those that sentenced me that are jailed in a lie.”
“Brazil needs to restore its democracy, find itself and be happy again,” he said. “They might lock me up, shut me up, but I will keep my faith in the Brazilian people.”
After his nomination was approved, another message written by da Silva was read aloud.
“They already brought down a president that was elected and now they want to veto the right of the people to elect their next president. They want to invent a democracy without people,” he said.
Meanwhile, other candidates criticized da Silva and his party.
“It pains my heart, but I don’t expect anything from them now,” said left-leaning presidential hopeful Ciro Gomes, of the Democratic Labor Party.
Conservative Geraldo Alckmin, who was named by the Social Democracy Party as its presidential nominee Saturday, cast blame for the country’s 13 million unemployed.
“It was the lies and the radicalism that created the chain of events that is the tragic heritage of the Workers’ Party,” he said.
Workers’ Party chairwoman Gleisi Hoffmann, who is trying to lure other left-leaning parties to the ticket, addressed supporters at the convention after two fringe parties endorsed da Silva’s run.
“They tried to exclude Lula from the political discussion,” she said. “There is no political discussion in Brazil without Lula and the Workers’ Party.”
Centrist Marina Silva was also nominated by the Rede party on Saturday.