The former front-runner in Brazil’s presidential campaign shook up the race again Thursday when she unexpectedly withheld an endorsement for center-right candidate Aecio Neves, who is challenging incumbent Dilma Rousseff. Marina Silva had turned the race on its head this summer when she stepped in to take the place of the Socialist Party candidate, who was killed in a plane crash. After a brief reign as front-runner, she was reduced to the role of spoiler when she finished third in the election’s first round, on Sunday. But on Thursday, she appeared to step back from even that position when she canceled plans to announce an endorsement, which had been expected to be for Neves. She said she needed more commitments from the candidate, who will take on Rousseff in an Oct. 16 runoff.
“Alliances and coalitions are a big part of Brazilian politics, and it’s very important for Neves to get Silva’s support and to have her with him on TV and at campaign stops, since he needs around 60% of her voters to win,” said David Fleischer, a political scientist at the University of Brasilia. “If Marina stays away, she may be able to reinforce that she doesn’t play by the old rules of Brazil politics, but if she supports him and he wins, she gets influence and maybe a position in the new administration.”
Rousseff received 42% of the votes in the first-round balloting, with her strongest support coming from the poor. Neves, a Social Democrat, came in second with 34%, with his heaviest backing coming from Brazil’s wealthier regions. Voting is mandated by law in Brazil, although nearly a third of eligible voters failed to show up at the polls, or instead cast ballots for no one.