1664832796 Simone Tebet and Ciro Gomes the most sought after voices

Simone Tebet and Ciro Gomes, the most sought-after voices

The candidates for the Brazilian presidency, Simone Tebet and Ciro Gomes.The candidates for the presidency of Brazil, Simone Tebet and Ciro Gomes.AP

Simone Tebet and Ciro Gomes have the key Brazil’s next president needs. Together they get 7.2% of the votes in the first ballot. Tebet has signaled a preference for Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Gomes is a longtime ally of the left-wing leader, who has now estranged himself. Although both are more in line with Lula programmatically, it remains to be seen at what price they will sell their support and if their word will be heeded by voters. A month before the final vote, the race for centrist votes has already begun.

“We have a lot to think about, but we won’t wash our hands,” Tebet said on Sunday evening. With 4% of the votes earning her third place in the first ballot, the senator from the Brazilian Democratic Movement (MDB) has given the leaders of her formation a maximum of 48 hours to make a statement. The MDB, heir to the only opposition party legal during the military dictatorship, tends to give its members freedom of choice, although Tebet has already indicated that he prefers Lula. According to the Brazilian media, there is talk in the candidate’s circles of offering him a ministerial post.

The 52-year-old senator and former university professor has taken a serious interest in politics. His program combined liberal economic proposals such as privatization with progressive measures such as the appointment of a parity government of men and women. In this game of balance, he has managed to balance his support for agribusiness and environmental sustainability. The state it represents, Mato Grosso do Sul, bordering Paraguay and Bolivia, is primarily agricultural and livestock but proud of the Pantanal, one of the world’s largest wetlands.

Although Tebet’s program has left and right components, it distances itself from far-right Jair Bolsonaro by emphasizing democratic values. In the last debate before the first round, dominated by insults and a harsh tone, Tebet snapped at Bolsonaro: “Are we talking about Brazil? We don’t see any presentation of proposals here, just mutual attacks to see who stole the most.” He also criticized Lula for the corruption scandals, but the exchange was less tense. The left was also very careful not to attack them.

The debates won over Leandro Santos, a 24-year-old black man who works as a waiter at an expensive restaurant near Avenida Paulista. Before I saw her on TV, I didn’t know who she was. “She was the only one who spoke about politics, the one who showed more steadfastness,” she says. He thinks the percentage of votes the candidate has received is “excellent” and says he envisions her as president in four years’ time. As for the second ballot, the vote is still undecided: “Lula was in prison while Bolsonaro wasn’t. But I need to do more research.”

Ciro Gomes, 64, will be a tougher nut to crack. After knowing the results, which earned him 3% of the vote, the candidate from the Democratic Workers’ Party (PDT, for its acronym in Portuguese), a historic party of the Brazilian centre-left, asked to speak “a few hours” with friends and militants. “I have never faced a situation that is so threatening to our destiny as a nation,” he said without giving further details.

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The one who was Lula’s minister for national integration between 2003-06 has similar proposals to the Workers’ Party (PT) and even more progressive ones, with a clear commitment to universal basic income. However, the relationship between Gomes and his former boss has never been so bad. Gomes has even branded him a “fascistoid” and equated him with the current president. “Bolsonaro would not exist if it weren’t for the severe economic and moral crisis facing the PT governments,” he said last week while trying to stem the voter flight.

The harshness of the tone used by Gomes has unnerved some of the PDT’s militants, who were in favor of their leader dropping out of the race to allow for a first-round win for Lula. Gome’s position has opened cracks even in his family circle. In Ceará, a poor northeastern state that the politician ruled in the 1990s, his brothers campaigned with the PT’s gubernatorial candidate. An action that Gomes called a “stab in the back”.

Whoever supports Tebet and Gomes, Lula starts with an advantage because of the voter profile. According to a Datafolha poll ahead of the first round, 31 percent of uncertain Tebet and Gomes voters preferred the left-wing candidate, significantly more than those who doubted Bolsonaro. Furthermore, the opinion of the leaders is not decisive, according to Claudio Couto, a political scientist at the Getulio Vargas Foundation. “Voters are more concerned with their own opinions than those of the leadership. I think the majority will tend to migrate to Lula because of concerns about the democratic spirit given Bolsonaro’s authoritarianism,” he says.

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