RIO DE JANEIRO- At first glance, the election of Geraldo Alckmin, a 69-year-old centrist technocrat, as running mate of the former leftist president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (2003-2010) might seem incongruous.
In 2006, the PT leader and Alckmin clashed in the second round of the presidential electionswhen Lula was re-elected with 60% of the votes.
Alckmin was then a member of the Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB)a historic centre-right movement that he co-founded in 1988 and which ruled Brazil from 1995 to 2002, with Fernando Henrique Cardoso as president.
To those who considered his alliance with Lula unnatural, this former governor of São Paulo he replied that the time had come to unite in defense of democracythreatened, according to him, by the far-right Jair Bolsonaro.
“Some may find this strange. I disputed the second round against Lula in 2006, but the debate went to another level, we never put democracy in danger”, he declared at the end of March, when he joined the center-left Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB), which laid the foundations of his current alliance with the former president.
“It is important to open your eyes and have the humility to understand that today Lula is the one who best reflects the hopes of the Brazilian people,” added this trained doctor, born in Pindamonhangaba, in the state of São Paulo.
“Two forces that have different projects, and that have the same principles, can come together at a time when the people need it,” Lula justified himself, stressing that the rivalry of the past had been “civilized.”
Alckmin acquired a reputation as a solid and austere manager throughout his tenures as governor of São Paulo. (2001-2006 and 2011-2018), the most populous state in Brazil, which has reassured businessmen. Far from being a tribune, this bald man with thin glasses, conservative, Catholic and close to Opus Dei, received an unflattering nickname: “Chuchu Picole” (“Helado de cayote”, in Spanish), in reference to a tropical vegetable related to the zucchini and with an insipid taste.
But during the campaign he appropriated this nickname with humorto highlight the differences in character between the leader of the PT and himself: “The squid [Lula, en portugués] and the cayote go very well together”, he said, inspiring culinary recipes published on social networks.
Lula is respected by his rivals for “honoring agreements.” His union origin made him a frenetic accordionist. The compromises, according to critics, led him to fall back on the old politics and to ally himself with characters with sensitive stomachs.
This is the case of Alckmin. The now second came to say that “after ruining the country, Lula wants to return to power, to the scene of the crime.”
Fernando Haddad, former Minister of Education of the PT government and loser of the ballottage with Bolsonaro, recounted how Lula’s last negotiating coup was: the election of Alckmin, his rival in 2006, as vice president in 2022.
“I tell Lula that Alckmin is interested in being vice president,” Haddad said. And then Lula put his hand to his mustache, began to touch his beard, and in her deep voice said. ‘Dresses? Politics is wonderful.’”