Lula may tap running mate to head Brazil economic policy, aides say

Brazil's Presidential candidate Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva holds a campaign rally, in Nova Iguacu, near Rio de Janeiro
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By Marcela Ayres and Bernardo Caram

BRASILIA (Reuters) - Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva could tap his centrist running mate and former rival, Geraldo Alckmin, to run economic policy if he wins a third term in October, four of his senior advisors told Reuters.

Lula's aides said the leftist leader, who is ahead of President Jair Bolsonaro in opinion polls, would only pick his finance minister after the election is settled, but Alckmin, a former Sao Paulo governor who lost to Lula in the 2006 presidential race, is clearly in the running for the job.

If he gets the nod, it would be a clear signal to financial markets that Lula aims to reprise orthodox economic policies from early in his 2003-2010 presidency. Alckmin, a former power broker in the center-right Brazilian Social Democracy Party, has been a key interlocutor between Lula and the business community.

"There are several candidates who fulfill the conditions to be good finance ministers. Certainly Alckmin is one of them: he is a competent administrator, he has been governor more than once, he is qualified," said Guido Mantega, ex-finance minister for Lula and his Workers Party (PT) successor from 2006 to 2014.

PT Congressman Alexandre Padilha, who has also connected Lula's campaign with business leaders, said Alckmin has proven "very loyal and important in political dialogue and with economic actors," which he would "certainly" keep doing in government.

Two other Lula advisors, who are engaged in the campaign's economic debates and requested anonymity to discuss them, said Alckmin is one of several veteran politicians in the running for the top economic job in the next administration. Lula has made clear that he wants a finance minister in that mold, rather than a professional economist.

Workers Party politicians in the mix include Bahia Governor Rui Costa, former Piaui Governor Wellington Dias, Congressman Padilha himself and Lula's former Education Minister Fernando Haddad, if he loses the race for São Paulo governor, aides said.

Alckmin would not be the first vice president to also run a ministry in a Lula government. Vice President Jose Alencar served as defense minister from late 2004 to early 2006.

Alencar's son Josue Gomes, now president of Sao Paulo industry group Fiesp, is another name in the running for finance minister if Lula wins, according to advisors.

Lula's lead over Bolsonaro ahead of the October election has narrowed to 10 points from 12, a Genial/Quaest poll released this week showed.

(Reporting by Marcela Ayres and Bernardo Caram; Editing by Brad Haynes and Richard Pullin)