SAO PAULO - The Brazilian Socialist Party is likely to announce environmentalist Marina Silva as its presidential candidate next week, replacing party leader Eduardo Campos who was killed in a plane clash, three leading local newspapers reported on Saturday.
The PSB, as the party is known, has agreed to rally around a Silva candidacy despite misgivings among some prominent members about her conservationist views and other issues such as economic policy, according to reports in Folha de S.Paulo, O Estado de S.Paulo and O Globo.
Silva's candidacy is likely to be formally announced at a party meeting scheduled for Aug. 20, Folha said, adding that her running mate is expected to be Beto Albuquerque, a PSB congressman from the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul.
Globo and Estado, however, said that the party was still undecided on who would be Silva's running mate. “A Marina candidacy is contemplated in our political project. It's a solution that ensures continuity,” the PSB's new leader, Roberto Amaral, was quoted as saying.
On Friday, a key PSB coalition ally told Reuters that consensus was building around a Silva candidacy but that many issues still had to be ironed out before a final decision could be made. "There appears to be consensus in the party that Marina should take Eduardo's place," Roberto Freire, leader of the Popular Socialist Party, told Reuters.
Silva, who was running as Campos' vice presidential candidate on the PSB ticket, has told party leaders that she is willing to run in his place, the papers reported, citing unnamed sources who met her in Sao Paulo late on Friday.
Campos, a popular former governor of Pernambuco state, was killed in a plane crash on Wednesday on the way to a campaign event in the southeastern coastal city of Santos. The accident upended Brazil's presidential race, with pollsters and analysts saying there is now a greater chance that the election will be decided in a second-round runoff on Oct. 26.
The first-round vote is scheduled for Oct. 5. Campos, 49, was in third place in opinion polls, trailing President Dilma Rousseff of the leftist Workers' Party and Aecio Neves, the centrist opposition candidate from the Brazilian Social Democracy Party. Silva, who placed a strong third in the 2010 presidential race as the Green Party candidate, is hugely popular among younger voters who are disillusioned with Brazil's political establishment. A devout Christian, she also has a loyal following among evangelical voters, an increasingly influential demographic in Brazil.
A Silva candidacy could deprive Rousseff of the votes she needs to avoid a runoff between the two best-placed candidates. A new survey to be published on Monday will show whether Silva has more support than Neves, who has been running second place in the polls.