By Anthony Boadle, Ricardo Brito and Maria Carolina Marcello
BRASILIA (Reuters) -Brazilian presidential candidate Sergio Moro called in an interview on Wednesday for the political center to unite behind him in order to beat “extreme” alternatives on his left and right at this October’s election.
Moro is running third in most opinion polls, which show leftist former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva with a clear lead over right-wing incumbent Jair Bolsonaro.
As a federal judge, Moro put Lula behind bars on corruption charges that were later annulled. He served in Bolsonaro’s government as justice minister, but resigned in 2020, accusing the president of meddling in the federal police to protect his sons.
In a race polarized between the two leading candidates, Moro said voters would be forced to chose between Bolsonaro, who mishandled the COVID-19 pandemic, and Lula, who wants to “brush under the carpet” the graft scandals that rattled governments under his Workers Party.
“Brazil deserves better. Are we going to insist on the errors of the past and the present?” he said.
Moro, who calls himself a centrist, believes he can draw voters who want neither Lula nor Bolsonaro.
However, the former judge must also overcome opposition from both sides of the political spectrum. In a survey this month by pollster MDA Pesquisa, 58% of respondents said they would never vote for Moro, compared to 55% for Bolsonaro and 51% for Lula.
As a result, his support has hovered in single digits, while Bolsonaro is polling shy of 30% and Lula north of 40%.
Moro said his nearest rival in the polls, former Ceara Governor Ciro Gomes is too far left to unite Brazil’s center.
On economic policy, the ex-justice minister said Brazil’s social needs are great but have to be handled with fiscal responsibility in order to restore sustainable economic growth.
“If we lose the balance between GDP and the national debt, inflation will get out of control and we will not be able to bring interest rates down, and Brazil will not grow again,” he said.
Moro said he can promise voters a more efficient and ethical state without the traditional shackles of political corruption.
He said no privatization should be “taboo,” not even the sale of state-run oil company Petrobras, which was at the heart of a vast graft network uncovered in the so-called Car Wash investigation that he oversaw as judge.
(Reporting by Anthony Boadle, Ricardo Brito and Maria Carolina MarcelloEditing by Brad Haynes and Alistair Bell)