April 19, 2018 / 10:51 PM / a year ago

Brazil anti-corruption judge embraced by party, eyeing presidential race

BRASILIA (Reuters) - Top members of the Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB) gushed on Thursday over their newest member, potential presidential candidate and former Supreme Court Justice Joaquim Barbosa, whose debut in a national poll stoked hopes for his potential.

Joaquim Barbosa, former Chief Justice in Brazil, is seen before a meeting with PSB Election Commission in Brasilia, Brazil April 19, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino

Barbosa received 9.0 percent of voter support in the first poll since he joined the party just two weeks ago, making him one of the top four potential candidates despite his lack of political experience.

The first and only black member of the high court, Barbosa became a household name in Brazil for his handling of a major political corruption trial in 2012, an issue that stands well with an electorate eager for honest leaders who will continue the country’s unprecedented fight against graft.

While party President Carlos Siqueira stopped short of calling him the PSB candidate in the presidential race, he said the party was betting he would accept such a nomination.

“We need to get to know Barbosa better,” Siqueira told reporters after an election strategy meeting attended by the judge turned politician.

Barbosa was a perfect match because he was left-of-center like the party, he said. The party has until Aug. 15 to nominate its candidate in a convention for the Oct. 7 election.

Siqueira said Barbosa’s support in the poll, despite only publicly signalling he was considering a run two weeks before the survey was conducted, reflected the anger of Brazilian voters with the country’s corrupt political class.

“I still have not convinced myself that I should be a candidate. I have serious doubts,” Barbosa told reporters. He said his family opposed him making a presidential bid.

Barbosa, the son of a bricklayer, has never run for office but is widely admired for heading a high-profile trial over vote-buying that led to the imprisonment of three top aides to former leftist president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

PSB officials said Barbosa could pick up many of the votes of Brazilians who will abandon Lula’s Workers Party due to his corruption conviction and imprisonment.

Reporting by Maria Carolina Marcello; Writing and additional reporting by Anthony Boadle; editing by Clive McKeef and Richard Chang

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