Brazilian centrists are desperate. This group of politicians and intellectuals fear that the 2018 presidential race will be decided in the runoff stage by two radical candidates: Jair Bolsonaro to the right and Ciro Gomes to the left. That is, providing neither of them snatches the presidency in the first round of voting, thanks to rising abstention rates. It is not a probable scenario, but anything is possible in today’s Brazil.
This anxiety among the political center is fueled by the struggles of former São Paulo Governor Geraldo Alckmin, who has failed miserably to take off as a competitive candidate. The quintessential centrist, Mr. Alckmin is a moderate who is fond of economic conservatism. He would champion the austerity policies and state reform that the markets badly want. But he has failed to inspire confidence in supporters and analysts – and his polling numbers are very poor indeed.