Ex-state governor Doria quits Brazil presidential race as centrists seek alternative

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Sao Paulo's former Governor Joao Doria announces his withdrawal of the pre-candidacy for the presidency for the national elections, in Sao Paulo, Brazil May 23, 2022. REUTERS/Carla Carniel

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SAO PAULO, May 23 (Reuters) - Former Sao Paulo Governor Joao Doria, who won the presidential primary for the Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB), said on Monday he was dropping out of the race, as centrist parties keep up their search for a strong candidate in a polarized election.

Doria, who stepped down as governor to run, threw in the towel after opinion surveys for the October election showed him consistently with just 2-3% of voter support.

"I understand that I am not the choice of the PSDB leadership," Doria told reporters.

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Doria faced growing pressure to quit from within his party, whose leaders are eyeing a centrist coalition to challenge both far-right President Jair Bolsonaro and former president Luis Inacio Lula da Silva, the leftist leading in opinion polls.

One option floated by the centrist Brazilian Democratic Movement (MDB) party is Senator Simone Tebet, although her support has not exceeded Doria's in recent surveys.

"Let's work to unite the entire democratic center," Tebet said in a statement on Monday, urging the PSDB to back her candidacy.

Roberto Freire, head of the Cidadania party in the centrist coalition, said Doria had shown "greatness" by stepping aside in a move that will "strengthen the alternative third way around the candidacy of Simone Tebet."

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Reporting by Gabriel Araujo in Sao Paulo, Ricardo Brito and Anthony Boadle in Brasilia Editing by Brad Haynes and Grant McCool

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