Big Brazil party makes 1st presidential bid in 24 years

August 2, 2018
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FILE - In this April 3, 2018 file photo, Brazil's President Michel Temer, left, greets then Finance Minister Henrique Meirelles, during a Brazilian Democratic Movement political party ceremony in which Meirelles joined the party, in Brasilia, Brazil. The Brazilian Democratic Movement on Thursday, Aug. 2, 2018, announced Meirelles as its candidate for the upcoming October election. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres, File)

SAO PAULO (AP) — The party of outgoing and unpopular Brazilian President Michel Temer picked its own presidential candidate Thursday for the first time in 24 years.

The Brazilian Democratic Movement announced that 72-year-old former Finance Minister Henrique Meirelles would be its candidate for the October election.

The large, centrist party has a history of not having its own presidential candidate so that it can easily form coalitions with other parties, playing kingmaker.

Temer was elected vice president under Workers’ Party candidate Dilma Rousseff, who was impeached in 2016. The party has supported all previous administrations since the 1989 election.

Datafolha institute’s June poll shows Meirelles with minimal support among voters and Temer as the most unpopular president in Brazil’s history, with an unaffordability rating topping 80 percent.

Under Meirelles, Brazil’s economy dipped 3.6 percent in 2016, grew only 1 percent last year and is bound for a similar result in 2018, despite his early predictions of a 3 percent jump.

Meirelles was also central bank governor between 2003 and 2010 in the two terms of former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, at a time Brazil’s economy was booming.

Da Silva leads polls with more than 30 percent support, but electoral officials are likely to bar him from running due to a corruption conviction.

At least five other candidates lead Meirelles in most polls, but that didn’t stop Temer from being optimistic about his party’s pick.

“If we managed to do all this in two years, imagine what Meirelles can do in four years, maybe eight years,” Brazil’s president said.

In 1994, when the Movement had its last candidate for president, former Sao Paulo Gov. Orestes Quercia finished fourth, with less than 5 percent of the vote.

The party governs more than 1,000 cities, seven states and has the most seats in the Senate, with 18. It’s the second party in Brazil’s lower house, with 50 deputies.

Meirelles has not picked a running mate yet.