Bloomberg — Brazil’s presidential front-runner Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva picked a centrist politician as running mate on Friday, capping a week in which his allies launched a charm offensive to win over the country’s business elite.
Former Sao Paulo Governor Geraldo Alckmin, 69, an old adversary of the leftist former president, officially joined his ticket during a ceremony organized by their parties in Brasilia.
“It’s completely possible for two groups with different projects but the same principles to join forces in a moment of need,” Lula said at the event, underscoring that Alckmin and his new party will participate in the making of the government plan.
That’s the biggest sign yet that Lula, 76, is trying to move closer to the moderate political and economic views Alckmin has embodied during his three-decade political career. The announcement comes as President Jair Bolsonaro’s popularity picks up, particularly in Brazil’s northern and southern regions, allowing him to narrow the gap with the front-runner.
“With Alckmin officially joining the ticket, Lula will have to moderate his speech, otherwise Bolsonaro will win the election,” said Marco Antonio Teixeira, a political sciences professor at Fundacao Getulio Vargas, a think tank and business school.
Alckmin left the party of ex-President Fernando Henrique Cardoso last month to join a group willing to back Lula in the October election, saying one needs to be “humble” to understand that the former union leader best represents “the feeling of hope of the Brazilian people.”
Lula has also defended their alliance, which has been criticized by members of his own Workers’ Party and other leftist allies. “I changed, Alckmin changed and Brazil changed,” he posted on social media this week.
Meanwhile, Lula’s allies have been working hard to convince Brazilian business leaders that his government wouldn’t bring about radical change. Earlier this week, Workers’ Party President Gleisi Hoffmann met with a group of 30 wealthy business people in Sao Paulo to convey a message of economic stability.
She assured, for instance, that Lula wants Central Bank President Roberto Campos Neto to stay in the job until the end of his mandate in 2024, said two people who attended the meeting. Campos Neto has a four-year term guaranteed by the bank’s autonomy law and has already said he plans to fulfill it.
Hoffman also said the Workers’ Party is against government control of fuel prices, although she defended the need to boost the refining capacity of Petroleo Brasileiro SA to make the state-controlled oil company more independent from international prices, the people said, asking for anonymity because the discussion wasn’t public.
The general feeling among the participants of the meeting was of relief, according to the people. They added that the dinner took place without awkward moments and all left with the impression that no radical measures are in the making.