Brazil's Temer Backs Former Finance Chief for Presidency Bid

(Bloomberg) -- Brazil’s President Michel Temer endorsed his former finance minister for the nation’s top job amid growing investor anxiety on whether the next head of state will continue with economic reforms seen as key to restore the country’s investment grade standing.

Ex-Finance Minister Henrique Meirelles has what it takes to lead a national campaign, Temer told reporters in Brasilia on Tuesday. He called for unified support for Meirelles in his MDB party, and said he hopes the former banking executive is the only centrist candidate in this October’s election.

"Meirelles is the best of the best," Temer said.

The unpopular president, who had considered his own re-election bid, is now staking the continuity of his market-friendly reforms on the former Wall Street executive and politician. Despite his popularity with investors, Meirelles has so far failed to gain traction in presidential polls, stuck in the low single-digits alongside other centrist candidates.

Meirelles has repeatedly said that Brazil’s rebound from recession will help boost the chances of so-called centrist candidates, who are seen as more willing to further Temer’s austerity measures such as implementing a controversial pension reform.

The 72 year-old, who served as a central banker under former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, is presenting himself as a problem-solver. Still, an economic recovery that’s showing signs of slowing might prove a new challenge for Meirelles. The government on Tuesday cut its 2018 growth forecast to 2.5 percent from 3 percent amid high unemployment and disappointing economic data.

Uncertainty surrounding elections has rattled investor nerves and weighed on local assets. A poll released this month showed rising support for leftist former minister Ciro Gomes, who has advocated for the expropriation of oil fields. The same survey showed market-friendly candidates including Meirelles, former Sao Paulo Governor Geraldo Alckmin and current lower house chief Rodrigo Maia lagging far behind.

Meirelles told reporters on Tuesday that talks with other parties for alliances have begun and that centrist parties will unite if not for the first round of the vote, for the runoff.

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