Brazil's right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro and ex-president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva stage competing rallies that are expected to become previews of their campaigns for presidential elections.

In Sao Paulo, there were simultaneous demonstrations to support President Bolsonaro and Lula.
In Sao Paulo, there were simultaneous demonstrations to support President Bolsonaro and Lula. (Reuters)

Brazilian right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro and his main rival, former leftist President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, have staged competing rallies that were expected to become previews of their campaigns for presidential elections in October.

Supporters of Bolsonaro had called during the week protests against the Supreme Court, after he pardoned a congressman sentenced to eight years in prison for threatening judges.

The pardoned congressman, Daniel Silveira, said in a rally on Sunday in Niteroi, in Rio de Janeiro state, that his arrest last year was "unconstitutional."

Silveira thanked fellow congressmen that helped him during his months in prison last year. He was freed in November, but the Supreme Court last month sentenced him to more than eight years of jail. Bolsonaro decided to pardon him.

Bolsonaro went to a rally protesting against the Supreme Court in Brasilia on Sunday. In a video stream from one of his social media accounts, Bolsonaro said the demonstrations were "pacific, to defend the constitution, democracy and freedom."

In Sao Paulo, there were simultaneous demonstrations to support the president and Lula.

READ MORE: Brazil's Supreme Court confirms decision to annul Lula convictions

Lula promises respect for workers

In a 15-minute speech, Lula promised to supporters, including many union leaders, that he would "resume negotiations to get workers rights respected again" if elected. 

Lula said he was speaking before becoming an official candidate, with the announcement expected for May 7.

The former president cited the recent UN human rights committee finding that Brazil graft investigators violated due process in bringing a case against Lula that led to his imprisonment and barred him from running for office in 2018.

The competing rallies reflect the deep political divisions in the country, and indicate the upcoming elections later this year will be hard fought, and could cause a political crisis if either side rejects the final results.

READ MORE: Brazilian court voids convictions against former president Lula da Silva

Source: Reuters