Brazilian retail billionaire Rocha drops out of presidential race

Brazilian retail billionaire Rocha drops out of presidential raceBrazilian retail billionaire Rocha drops out of presidential race

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) – Billionaire Flavio Rocha dropped his bid to become president of Brazil on Friday as rival center-right parties seek to draw his Brazilian Republican Party (PRB) into an alliance for the October elections.

The race remains Brazil’s most fragmented in decades with dozens of parties jockeying to forge alliances to decide who will be officially named as candidates at conventions at the end of July.

Rocha, who stepped away from heading clothing maker Guararapes Confeccoes SA and retailing unit Lojas Riachuelo to campaign, garnered only 1 percent of voter intentions in an opinion poll in June.

Rocha’s 1 percent was matched by former Finance Minister Henrique Meirelles, the candidate of President Michel Temer’s ruling Brazilian Democratic Movement (MDB), and trailed former Sao Paulo Governor Geraldo Alckmin, standard-bearer for the Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB), with 4-6 percent.

Both moderate parties said they would seek to strike an alliance with Rocha’s PRB, which has 21 congressional deputies and two senators. Following Rocha’s withdrawal, the PRB called for moderate parties to join forces.

“There is a clear understanding that the country cannot flirt with extremes and therefore, more than ever throughout the process, it is critical that the centrist forces come together in a single plan,” the PRB said in a statement.

Far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro led the June opinion poll with 17 percent of voter support.

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