Brazil's fiery former president Luiz Ignacio Lula da Silva has told his leftist Workers' Party that it will return to power in general elections next year.
"2018 seems far off for those who have no hope, but for us 2018 has already begun," Lula said late Thursday at a party conference in Brasilia.
Lula, who ruled from 2003-2010, says he will run for re-election in the October 2018 presidential vote. He currently heads opinion polls.
Although Lula, 71, remains one of Brazil's most recognizable and influential politicians, he is an increasingly divisive figure, blamed by many in the middle class for sowing the seeds of the country's current economic mess and sprawling corruption scandals.
Lula faces five separate corruption trials and if found guilty, he could be barred from seeking political office, dooming his comeback hopes.
Current Workers' Party leader Rui Falcao told the conference that the left must "prevent president Lula from being barred. It's vital to guarantee his right to being a candidate."
With conservative President Michel Temer currently teetering from his own corruption scandal, the left, which has been on a steady decline over the last few years, sees an unexpected chance to fight back.
Temer took over last year after Lula's Workers' Party colleague Dilma Rousseff was stripped of the presidency for breaking budgetary rules. Rousseff declared the impeachment process a coup and Brazil's leftists have been dreaming of a chance for revenge ever since.
"That's why they are afraid and we have the confidence that the left is going to compete with a well-prepared program and we're going to return to govern this country," Lula said.
Lula was hugely popular during his presidency, presiding over an economic boom fueled by rising commodity prices. He was also credited with groundbreaking new social programs that lifted tens of millions of Brazilians from severe poverty.
However, Rousseff came in just as the economy began to lose steam, and then plunge into recession -- a dismal record that gave impetus to her impeachment.
In addition, the Workers' Party and Lula in particular have been badly tainted by a massive embezzlement and bribery scandal.