Brazil's centre-right House Speaker Maia making presidential bid

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Brazil's centre-right House Speaker Maia making presidential bid

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BRASILIA (Reuters) – The speaker of Brazil’s lower house of Congress, Rodrigo Maia, said Thursday he will run for the presidency with a market-friendly platform advocating tax cuts and more efficient public spending.

Maia’s preliminary nomination by his centre-right Democrats party, the main ally to President Michel Temer, must be formalised at a convention in late July.

While his party is the sixth-largest in Congress, Maia, 48, ranks very low in early polling. With just 1 percent of voter intentions in a recent Datafolha survey, he is faring no better than Temer, Brazil’s most unpopular president on record.

Temer has not decided whether to run in the Oct. 7 election, but other candidates jockeying for position in the political centre are Finance Minister Henrique Meirelles and Geraldo Alckmin, governor of Sao Paulo, Brazil’s economic powerhouse.

Maia said he would eschew “irresponsible populism” – an indication he would continue Temer’s reform efforts to rein in a bulging budget deficit.

Antonio Carlos Magalhães Neto, the head of Maia’s party, called for improved public spending to save public resources.

“We will encourage economic production, not because we are slaves to the market, but because it is the best way to create wealth and help the welfare of those in need,” Neto said.

On the left, former Ceará governor Ciro Gomes also announced his presidential bid for the PDT party.

Gomes and environmentalist Marina Silva are expected to receive some of the votes that would go to Brazil’s most popular politician, former leftist president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who will likely be barred from running due to a corruption conviction that could also land him in prison.

Not counting Lula, the early favourite among a wide open field of candidates is far-right Congressman Jair Bolsonaro, a former army captain who advocates easing gun controls to fight rampant crime in Brazil.

(Reporting by Maria Carolina Marcello and Ricardo Brito; Writing by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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