UPDATE 2-Green Party to stay neutral in Brazilian runoff

* Green Party seeks to leverage environmental support

* Marina Silva won 19 pct of the votes on Oct. 3

* Silva: neutrality ensures voice in political debate
(Adds context, background, quote)

By Luciana Lopez and Carmen Munari

SAO PAULO, Oct 17 (BestGrowthStock) – Brazil’s third-placed Green
Party opted on Sunday to remain neutral in the increasingly
tight presidential runoff to leverage its 19 percent support to
advance the environmental agenda.

Former candidate Marina Silva said neutrality will give the
Green Party more influence in national debates leading up to
the Oct. 31 runoff between ruling party candidate Dilma
Rousseff and her opponent Jose Serra.

“We should place ourselves in a position as moderators,”
Silva said at a Green Party convention.

The former environment minister and renowned Amazon
defender finished a strong third in first round voting on Oct.
3 and forced the race to a second round.

Both Rousseff and Serra have aggressively courted Silva
since she emerged as a potential kingmaker, but the soft-spoken
former rubber tapper had hinted earlier that she was unlikely
to endorse either candidate.

The decision was greeted by the convention audience with a
strong ovation, with one supporter yelling that the decision is
making the Green Party “the party of the future.”

<^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

Full coverage of election: [ID:nBRAZIL]

Election Top News page: http://link.reuters.com/dux43p

Special report on Rousseff: http://link.reuters.com/fab25p

Candidates’ economic proposals: [ID:nN03283677]

Political risks in Brazil: [ID:nRISKBR]

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Some analysts have said that neutrality by the Green Party
could mean a setback for Serra, who is seeking to attract as
many votes as possible to win the election. The ruling Workers’
Party was never confident of winning over Green Party support.

Silva, who garnered 19 percent of the vote in the first
round, told Reuters on Friday that the aggressive tone of the
campaign has prevented both Rousseff and Serra from discussing
Brazil’s problems in depth. [ID:nN15217077]

She has complained that there are few clear differences
between the platforms of the two remaining candidates, both of
whom have pledged to continue the mix of market-friendly
economic policies and social welfare programs that have made
outgoing President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva hugely popular.

But one Green Party leader, congressman Fernando Gabeira,
said the party should have supported Serra because his policies
were closer to the environmental movement’s positions.

Another leader lower house lawmaker, Jose Sarney Filho,
urged the party to endorse Rousseff. Yet, most senior members
chose to remain neutral in the runoff.

The presidential race narrowed to a statistical dead heat
in recent polls, suggesting that a corruption scandal and
controversy over Rousseff’s abortion views, have eroded support
for the career civil servant groomed by Lula as his successor.

Silva was Lula’s environment minister until 2008, when she
quit in a dispute over his government’s development plan for
the Amazon. She later left Lula’s Workers’ Party to join the
Green Party and run for president.
(Writing by Guillermo Parra-Bernal and Todd Benson; Editing by
Anthony Boadle)

UPDATE 2-Green Party to stay neutral in Brazilian runoff