Sao Paulo Governor Alckmin Hints at Bid for Brazil's Top Job

  • Possible candidate says mavericks unlikely to win presidency
  • Alckmin lost last presidential election to Lula in 2006

Geraldo Alckmin Filho.

Photographer: Misha Friedman/Bloomberg

Sao Paulo state governor Geraldo Alckmin indicated that he could join the race to become Brazil’s next president, saying he is a better candidate since his last bid for the country’s top job.

"I think I’m better prepared, more mature," Alckmin said at Bloomberg headquarters in New York on Monday when asked about his political ambitions for next year. "Now, it’s a collective decision, the party will decide."

In addition to the fate of President Michel Temer’s reform agenda, investors are increasingly eyeing next year’s election to gauge the possibility of a maverick winning and undoing some of the current administration’s market-friendly measures. Following the worst economic recession on record and a corruption scandal that cost tax payers billions of reais, polls of the 2018 presidential election show voters eschewing many of the country’s traditional politicians in favor of outsider candidates.

Alckmin, from the center-right Brazilian Social Democracy Party, or PSDB, lost to former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in the 2006 elections. A Datafolha survey carried out at the end of April found Alckmin had significantly lower levels of support than Joao Doria, the newly-elected PSDB mayor of Sao Paulo.

Asked whether he would consider backing Doria as the party’s candidate, Alckmin downplayed the importance of current opinion polls, saying they reflect the past and don’t foretell electoral potential. "If it depended on election polls, Joao Doria had 2 percent when he started" the mayoral race last year, Alckmin said, adding that he had played a key role in launching the former businessman’s political career.

A nascent economic recovery and Brazil’s two-round electoral system that requires a candidate to win an absolute majority made it unlikely for a populist to win next year, Alckmin said.

"The strongest candidate with that line of thinking is ex-president Lula," Alckmin said. "Lula is a strong candidate to reach the second round but not very viable then."

Still, Congress ought to approve a bill to overhaul the country’s electoral system to help increase representation in time for next year’s election, Alckmin said.

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