Simone Tebet, the third most voted candidate in the first round of the Brazilian presidential elections, has given her support to Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva against the far-right Jair Bolsonaro. The center-right senator has stated that, despite maintaining a critical view of the leftist candidate, she will vote for him in the second round because of his adherence to democratic principles. “I recognize his commitment to democracy and the Constitution, something that I do not know about the current president,” she declared to the media. Tebet’s votes, 4%, are key in a race that looks tighter than initially expected.
With her decision to back Lula, the senator from the Brazilian Democratic Movement (MDB) has rejected calls from some in her party who preferred neutrality. “I apologize to my friends and colleagues who implored neutrality in this second round, worried about a possible loss of political capital. What is at stake is much greater than each one of us”, Tebet pointed out, before charging against the Bolsonaro administration. “In the last four years, Brazil has been abandoned to the bonfire of hate.”
The MDB, heir to the only opposition party allowed during the dictatorship, is divided and has given its members freedom to decide the direction of their vote. While Tebet has given his support to Lula, the mayor of São Paulo, Ricardo Nunes, has opted for Bolsonaro. The former president and member of the MDB Michel Temer, who replaced Dilma Rousseff after the impeachmenthas not yet decided who to support.
In this balance game, Tebet has presented its announcement as inevitable at a crossroads that allowed no other option. The senator has criticized the lack of concreteness of Lula’s program, but has managed to get the leftist to adopt some of his proposals, such as supporting a law of equal pay between men and women. Later, Lula confirmed the inclusion of the proposals, and clarified that “it is not formal support, but programmatic.”
The announcement of the support came after the two had lunch together at the home of Marta Suplicy, a sexologist and former mayor of São Paulo. However, Tebet has preferred to appear alone before the press and leave the photo of the two shaking hands for later. Optics matter now that the senator from the state of Mato Grosso do Sul is seen as a future presidential candidate in her own right. She started the campaign with around 2% in voting intentions, but a couple of solid appearances in the electoral debates doubled her support, even in a highly polarized climate between Bolsonaro and Lula.
The race to the second round on October 30 has unleashed a flurry of endorsement announcements this week. Bolsonaro obtained those of the governors of São Paulo, Minas Gerais and Rio de Janeiro, the three most populous states in the country. Lula, in turn, has achieved those of former president Fernando Henrique Cardoso; Ciro Gomes, fourth most voted candidate in the first round; and Tebet. Gomes and Tebet added 7% of the votes, enough to put either of the two finalists above the 50% barrier. If we stick to the results of last Sunday, Lula would need just 1.5 points, while Bolsonaro needs almost seven.
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