With less than two weeks to go before Lula leaves office, the season of retrospectives is upon us. Many newspapers and magazines have issued special supplements looking back over Lula’s fascinating, largely successful and always eventful eight years in power.
One of the most pertinent questions, though, concerns not Lula’s past but his future. Many people wonder whether Lula, a former union leader who has know nothing other than politics for the best part of three decades, will be able to cope with life outside the spotlight. (See my Christian Science Monitor piece on that speculation here.)
Lula is the consummate politician and loves being centre stage. He loves to talk and he loves the attention. Some believe he hand-picked a relatively unknown civil servant to succeed him in order to make it easier for him to run again in four years time.
Those rumours took on a new lease of life this week after Lula told a local TV channel he did not rule out another presidential bid in 2014.
“I can’t say no because I’m still alive,” Lula told Rede TV. “I’m honorary president of a party, I’m a born politician, I built extraordinary political relationships.”
The timing undermines Dilma Rousseff, who has not commented on the interview (or much else for that matter).
But should we really give the talk any credence? Indeed, should we take anything Lula says seriously? A consumate politician, Lula is known for preaching to the choir. As I say in this Financial Times piece today:
Mr Lula da Silva is charming and folksy and famous for saying one thing one day and something completely different the next, often depending on the audience in front of him.
Just last month he called speculation he might run again “small-minded” and said Brazilians should be discussing 2011 and not 2014.
That completely contradicts what he told Rede TV. So which Lula to believe?
Another example of the contradictions surround Lula’s immediate future. He has hinted variously that he will work for Africa, take on a role at an international organization, focus on eradicating world poverty, and put his feet up and relax. Of course, he can do all of those things. But he has told different audiences different things.
A more worrying example of his mixed messages are in his future dealings with Rousseff. He offered her advice and then vowed not to interfere in her administration. Then he said he will help her if she needs him.
And all this in spite of the fact that he has spent the best part of eight years telling his predecessor that ex-presidents should be seen and not heard.
Time will tell where Lula goes and what he does. But I can’t see him bowing out quietly. There have been many acts in Lula’s storybook life. I think (and hope) there are more to come.