By Lisandra Paraguassu
BRASILIA (Reuters) – Brazilian Finance Minister Henrique Meirelles said on Monday he will decide next week whether to resign to run for the presidency, as he competes with President Michel Temer for the nomination of the Brazilian Democratic Movement (MDB) party.
Aides to Temer, who is considering seeking a second term, announced earlier on Monday that Meirelles had already decided to quit to join the MDB as its presidential candidate or possibly as Temer’s running mate in the Oct. 7 election.
However, Temer, who came to power in 2016 when President Dilma Rousseff was impeached, later clarified that talks with Meirelles over the weekend had reached no conclusion regarding the MDB ticket.
Temer’s closest political allies want him to run to continue his government’s fiscal adjustment program, but party members do not see how he can win with approval ratings in the single digits. Meirelles, if not any more popular, has a lower disapproval rating than the president.
Meirelles, 72, a former banking executive and central bank governor, insisted on Monday that he was aiming for the top job.
“I am looking at the presidency, evidently. But we have to see what people want and consider electoral factors to avoid a negative result for the country,” he told reporters.
Temer’s chief of staff, Eliseu Padilha, said Meirelles would leave to join the ruling party, which opens the possibility that he will be nominated if Temer decides not to run.
“The natural candidate is President Temer, but if he does not want it or can’t run, minister Meirelles’ candidacy would be very welcome,” Temer’s minister of political affairs, Carlos Marun, told Reuters.
Marun later said Meirelles’ entry to the MDB party had not been decided yet.
Under Brazil’s electoral laws, if Meirelles wants to be a candidate, he has to quit the ministry by April 7. He has kept Brazilians and investors guessing for weeks about his plans.
A presidential aide said Meirelles discussed his future with Temer on Friday and Saturday, and proposed Finance Ministry secretaries Mansueto Almeida and Eduardo Guardia as potential replacements.
Pollster Ibope found in December that only 6 percent of Brazilians think Temer is doing a good or great job, while 74 percent see him as bad or terrible.
Political analysts say Temer, a veteran 77-year-old politician, needs at least a 15 percent approval rating to enter the campaign, and to lower his disapproval to close to 50 percent to stand any chance of winning.
(Reporting by Lissandra Paraguassú; Additional reporting by Bruno Federowski, Iuri Dantas and Mateus Maia; Writing by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Daniel Flynn and Leslie Adler)