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Brazil presidential candidates vie for support of smaller parties ahead of runoff

Brazil presidential candidates vie for support of smaller parties ahead of runoff

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and his presidential runoff rival Geraldo Alckmin have begun courting small rival political parties ahead of the Oct. 29 election.
Silva, a leftist, fell just shy of the 50 percent needed for an outright win in Sunday's first-round, topping the conservative former Sao Paulo state governor 48.6 percent to 41.6 percent.
Both immediately began wooing other parties that were either knocked out of the runoff or didn't run candidates for president.
The spotlight was on the big Brazilian Democratic Movement Party, which did not endorse a presidential candidate because of internal divisions. But the party known as the PMDB will have the largest number of lawmakers in Brazil's lower house of Congress next year.
Silva told reporters he would meet Wednesday with governors from the Brazilian Socialist Party and the PMDB to discuss campaign strategy. He also was to meet with PMDB's candidate for governor of Rio de Janeiro, Sergio Cabral.
On Monday, Silva said it would be "an immense pleasure" to support Cabral, who also faces a runoff, despite campaigning for Cabral's rival Marcelo Crivella a few weeks ago.
Tasso Jereissati, leader of Alckmin's Brazilian Social Democracy Party, also met Monday night with PMDB leader Michel Temer and is expected to court the parties of presidential candidates Heloisa Helena and Cristovam Buarque, who finished third and fourth.
Both Helena and Buarque were members of Silva's Workers' Party, but Helena was expelled and Buarque later quit in disagreement over Silva's shift to the pro-business right.
Silva, Brazil's first working-class president, had been expected to win the election in the first round. But accusations that officials of his party tried to buy information incriminating a political opponent caused his support to dip on the eve of the vote.
His party earlier had been accused of bribing lawmakers to support the government in Congress, forcing several top party members to resign. Silva was not personally linked to the allegations.
Analysts say both candidates will have to spend almost as much time wooing Brazil's diverse of spectrum of political parties as they will attracting voters.
The "PMBD is the most coveted bride," said David Fleischer, a political scientist at the University of Brasilia. "Whether they are going to be able to woo them is another story, because it's not a cohesive party."
He said the PMDB has about 27 factions, about half of which supported Silva during his first term.
Helena, who got 6.9 percent of the vote Sunday, said she would not support either candidate. Polls, however, show that about 90 percent of those who voted for Helena would vote for Alckmin in a second round.
Buarque, who received 2.6 percent of the vote, has not said whom he will support but told the Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper that he has been in touch with both Silva and Alckmin.
"The conversation with Alckmin was warmer. With Lula things were cooler," Buarque said, referring to the president by his nickname.
Wooing small parties can often make for strange bedfellows.
Disgraced former President Fernando Collor de Mello, elected to the Brazilian Senate with the tiny Brazilian Renovative Workers Party has already pledged support for Silva, even though the two men were thought to be longtime enemies.
Another much sought-after party is the conservative Partido Popular, or People's Party, whose leading candidate _ disgraced former-Sao Paulo Gov. Paulo Maluf _ was imprisoned in 2005 on charges of money laundering, coercing witness and obstructing justice. Maluf was elected to Congress on Sunday.