Brazil Election Campaign Heats Up as Dozen Candidates Expected

(Bloomberg) -- Brazil’s largest right-wing party on Thursday launched a presidential candidate for the first time in nearly two decades, bringing the number of major parties contending in the October race to seven of an expected 12.

Lower house speaker Rodrigo Maia used the national convention of the pro-market Democratas party, or DEM, to kick start his bid for the presidency. Later in the day, the leftist former governor Ciro Gomes formalized his bid.

"I take on the responsibility of renewing the Brazilian state and combating inefficiency," Maia told the convention. "I accept the challenge of being a candidate for the presidency," he said.

Brazil Election Campaign Heats Up as Dozen Candidates Expected

Maia’s presidential bid symbolizes a comeback for a party that had been sidelined until a few years ago as its liberal economic ideology and old-style politicians looked out of touch with reality. A trenchant critic of the Workers’ Party of former Presidents Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff throughout their 13 years in power, Maia is part of a new generation of conservative leaders. A stalwart ally of President Michel Temer and his efforts to pass a pro-market reform agenda, he has sought to distance himself as the October election approaches.

While some party members say the Maia candidacy is largely a bargaining chip to negotiate positions in any future government, others contend he could go all the way if he rises in the polls. Candidates don’t formally register until August.

In a late afternoon press conference in Brasilia, Gomes vowed to introduce fiscal and tax reforms, and said fighting inequality would be top priority in his bid. That announcement came roughly 24 hours after right-wing lawmaker Jair Bolsonaro formalized his candidacy, promising to defend liberty and the right to bear arms.

Brazil Election Campaign Heats Up as Dozen Candidates Expected

Speaking to Bloomberg on condition of anonymity, three party members forecast the DEM candidate could become vice-president on the ticket of the larger Brazilian Social Democracy Party, or PSDB. Two other names are circulating as possible contenders for that position: the education minister, Jose Mendonca Filho and Antonio Carlos Magalhaes Neto, the mayor of Salvador who was named the new head of the party on Thursday.

See below for further stories on Brazil’s presidential hopefuls:

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