Bolsonaro, Lula fight for endorsements before Brazil runoff

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FILE - Presidential election campaign flags hang for sale, featuring the faces of both current President Jair Bolsonaro, left, and former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, outside the Supreme Electoral Court in Brasilia, Brazil, Sept. 5, 2022. Bolsonaro will face da Silva in the Oct. 30 runoff for president. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres, File)

SAO PAULO – Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva started bringing centrist allies into their camps Tuesday, two days after voting in Latin America's biggest democracy sent the rivals to a Oct. 30 runoff.

Da Silva, a leftist who is universally known as Lula and was president from 2003 to 2010, led Sunday's first round with 48% of the votes. The far-right Bolsonaro got 43%.

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The two men are the most loved and most hated political figures in Brazil, which has made many politicians announce they will not vote for either.

Da Silva received a half-hearted endorsement from the fourth place finisher, center-left candidate Ciro Gomes, who once a key ally. Gomes, who had 3% of the votes, said in a video he was following the decision of his Democratic Labor Party to give his support to the leftist leader.

“In these circumstances, (voting for da Silva) is the last way out," said Gomes, who did not mention the former president by name in the video.

Bolsonaro received the endorsements of three state governors in Brazil's southeast, which is the country's richest and most populous region — Romeu Zema in Minas Gerais and Claudio Castro in Rio de Janeiro , both reelected Sunday, and Rodrigo Garcia in Sao Paulo, who failed in his bid.

Zema and Castro supported Bolsonaro in the past, but had remained mostly silent about the presidential race this year. Garcia, who inherited the Sao Paulo governorship in March after Joao Doria resigned, had not comment on the presidential race until Tuesday.

Thomas Traumann, a political analyst, said that Bolsonaro got a boost from the endorsements he received Tuesday, but that da Silva could level the playing field if Sen. Simone Tebet joins his campaign. Tebet, an outspoken critic of Bolsonaro, got 4% of the votes Sunday and finished third among the 11 candidates.

“She can make a difference if the campaign is less about the Workers' Party and more about a coalition,” Traumann said. “Bolsonaro will have government machines in three states that are very influential. If the Workers' Party doesn't react to that, they will give a chance for Bolsonaro to win.”

The once-powerful center-right Brazilian Social Democracy Party said it wouldn't back either candidate for the runoff and would allow its members to pick on their own.

Some veteran members of the party have endorsed da Silva, such as Sen. Tasso Jereissatti and former Foreign Minister Aloysio Nunes. But some of the younger party members have sided with Bolsonaro, such as federal lawmaker Lucas Redecker.

Bolsonaro told supporters in the capital of Brasilia that he expects to close his gap of 6 million votes by campaigning hard in the southeast.

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