The situation in neighbouring Brazil is most interesting. Former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has surrendered himself to the police after an initial reluctance to serve a 12-year sentence on corruption charges which he denies.
Despite his enormous popularity, his conviction and imprisonment effectively disqualify him from running again as a presidential candidate in the next election, which opinion polls suggested that he was favoured to win. This is a slap in the face of democracy and certainly does not augur well for the future of democracy in Brazil. Earlier, another former President and close ally of Lula, Ms Dilma Rousseff was removed from office in what many considered to be a ‘constitutional’ coup.
It is clear that both the judicial and the legislative arms of the state have found common cause in thwarting the democratic will of the Brazilian people. Many view the imprisonment of Lula as a deliberate attempt to muzzle the Workers Party and the leftist movement in its struggle to advance a pro-poor agenda and create a more egalitarian society. Some see it as yet another right-wing conspiracy to suppress the working class agenda of the pro-labour Worker’s Party.
The will of the people to elect a President of their choice must be respected and any undue interference by the judiciary must be a matter of concern to all those who subscribe to the ideals of freedom and democracy. And while any act of graft, malfeasance and abuse of office must be investigated and dealt with in accordance with the provisions of the law, there is also the need to ensure that the law is not selectively and purposefully applied to stifle the democratic aspirations of the Brazilian people.