Marina Silva counts on Brazil anti-graft wave in threadbare campaign

BRASILIA (Reuters) - Former Brazilian senator Marina Silva is counting on a forceful anti-corruption message to overcome a lack of campaign resources as she runs for president this year for the third time, she told Reuters, reflecting on what may be her toughest challenge yet.

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In the Brazilian election system that metes out campaign resources based on parties’ past election performance, Silva’s recently created party — known as the Sustainability Network, or REDE — will get less than 1 percent of public campaign funding and a fleeting moment during the mandated electoral hour on TV.

“To win an election with eight seconds of television time, very little resources and a party that is more a movement than a traditional party” is daunting, Silva said, weighing up this election to her prior runs. “If I said it would be easier, I’d be contradicting myself.”

Yet strong name recall and a longstanding independence from the corruption scandals roiling Brazilian politics have helped Silva’s standing three months ahead of the election.

Silva is polling a close second to far-right lawmaker Jair Bolsonaro, according to recent voter surveys, excluding jailed ex-president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Marina Silva rose to prominence as environment minister under Lula, who shares a family name but no relation, but left his Workers Party, which was snared in graft investigations that have imprisoned the leftist icon and other party leaders.

In her 2010 and 2014 campaigns, running with the nomination of other traditional parties, the centrist environmentalist captured a fifth of the vote, missing second-round runoffs.

This time Silva is not actively pursuing alliances, eschewing the usual horse-trading among parties pooling campaign resources at this point in Brazil’s shortened election calendar.

Without alliances, television networks will not be obligated to invite Silva to political debates, as REDE’s three federal lawmakers do not meet the minimum to automatically qualify.

Silva has struck a moderate tone in a presidential race marked by fiery rhetoric on the left and right, calling for environmental protections, generous social programs and orthodox economic policy.

Yet she strongly criticized some of President Michel Temer’s market-friendly economic reforms, including a constitutional spending cap for the next two decades meant to cut public debt.

“The government froze the education, health, safety and infrastructure spending that we have for the next 20 years. Is that reasonable? That constitutional amendment will make the federal government inviable in the coming years,” she said.

Reporting by Lisandra Paraguassu and Ricardo Brito; Writing by Jake Spring; Editing by Brad Haynes and Alistair Bell