politics

Brazil’s Finance Minister Joins Ruling Party, Aims for Presidency

  • Meirelles says he’s at his party’s disposal on next steps
  • Meirelles says he has plans for presidential candidacy

Meirelles Sees 'Modernizer' Winning Brazil Presidency

Brazil Finance Minister Henrique Meirelles on Tuesday joined the ruling Democratic Movement Party, or MDB, and said he’ll make a personal decision on his presidential candidacy within the next two days.

Appearing at an event in Brasilia alongside current President Michel Temer, Meirelles told reporters that he puts himself at the party’s disposal to discuss next steps. Meirelles said he’ll likely leave his current post by Friday, even without the guarantee that he will represent his party in October’s election.

"I have a plan for a presidential candidacy, and now we are going to discuss it," he said.

Meirelles’s affiliation to the MDB, Brazil’s largest party, is a risky bet. Candidates in October’s election must choose a party this week. In turn, political parties don’t have to choose their nominees until mid-August. President Temer, who also has expressed interest in running for the MDB, spells further uncertainty for his finance minister’s political ambitions.

On top of that, the party may stick to its tradition of siding with the winner, rather than risking a candidacy of its own.

This week will see a flurry of high-level resignations as cabinet members, governors and mayors who wish to run for election in October have to quit their positions by Saturday. Meirelles joins a crowded field of would-be presidential candidates including at least a dozen contenders who have announced their intentions to run. With the front-runner, former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, almost certain to barred from competing, the outcome of the election is deeply unclear.

Meirelles’s presidential ambitions have become more visible over recent months. He has taken part in ribbon-cutting events, such as the handing over of social housing units, that fall outside the scope of his brief.

With only 1 percent of voter intention in opinion polls, a somewhat stiff appearance, and a monotonous speech, Meirelles also upped his game on social media. Recently he offered followers pictures of his dog Trica -- a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel -- as well as updates on the economy.

A former Wall Street executive, as well as Brazil’s central bank president for eight years, Meirelles would certainly be a dream ticket for the market. But there are serious doubts among investors as to whether the 72-year old has much chance of winning.

In addition to his lack of charisma, he’s also one of the principal architects of the unpopular economic policies of Temer, including a liberalization of labor laws and draconian cuts in government spending.

— With assistance by Maria Luiza Rabello

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