However, Da Silva's denials received a blow in January, when an appeals court upheld the conviction involving the beachfront apartment.
Lula's downfall has been as stunning as the unprecedented corruption probes that have convulsed Brazil for the last four years, jailing dozens of politicians and business leaders long considered above the law.
Lula da Silva was accused of benefiting from the renovation of a triplex in a beach town near Sao Paulo by the construction company OAS. An appeals court in Porto Alegre raised the sentence to 12 years and one month in January.
His Workers' Party said the ruling was a "tragic day for democracy and Brazil".
Ciro Gomes, another left-wing politician from the Democratic Labor Party, who served as the minister for national integration under Lula's administration, could also seek PT support, with his campaign issues focusing on defending national sovereignty and Brazil's independence on the world stage.
The drama is of huge effect to Brazil's presidential race, in which 72-year-old Lula, despite his legal problems, is the easy leader in polls.
The Workers Party has refused to openly discuss an alternative to nominating Lula to run.
The current president, Michel Temer, avoided standing trial before the supreme court previous year when allies in congress shielded him from charges of corruption, obstructing justice and links to organised crime.
"We have firm expectations that this conviction will be overturned", they said.
Last year, Temer was twice charged with corruption but remained in office because in both cases Congress, which must vote on criminal cases involving a sitting president, made a decision to spare him prosecution.
In return, Lula da Silva helped the builder acquire contracts from the oil company, prosecutors charged. In August, the country's top electoral court makes final decisions about candidacies.
A candidate is forbidden by law from running for elected office for eight years if convicted of a crime.
Da Silva's lawyers argue their client has a constitutional right to stay out of jail until all appeals are exhausted.
"People want to be close to President Lula after this injustice", he said.
Sen. Lindbergh Farias from the Workers' Party said vigils would be organized nationwide beginning on Friday. Rousseff was impeached and removed from office in a corruption scandal and economic crisis in mid-2016.
Couto can not see the once-powerful Workers Party having a competitive candidate until it makes a public apology for getting caught up in the systemic corruption among Brazil's traditional political class.
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