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Brazil party plans to launch Marina Silva presidential bid

By Jeferson Ribeiro

BRASILIA (Reuters) - The Brazilian Socialist Party plans to launch environmentalist Marina Silva as its presidential candidate next week, replacing party leader Eduardo Campos who was killed in a plane clash, a senior party official said on Saturday.

The PSB, as the party is known, has agreed to rally around a Silva candidacy after she pledged to honor the party's program and its regional alliances, said Beto Albuquerque, a party congressman from the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul.

"She will be the PSB candidate and she will honor those agreements," Albuquerque told Reuters. "Marina already signaled she will take over the candidacy."

Silva's candidacy, along with the name of her running mate, is expected to be announced after a party meeting scheduled for Aug. 20, he said.

Concern among some prominent PSB members about Silva's conservationist views and other issues such as economic policy were the main obstacles to her nomination.

Albuquerque, himself a favorite to become Silva's running mate, said the vice presidential candidate should be a person from the PSB who defends Campos' legacy, while being close to Silva.

Earlier on Saturday, three leading Brazilian newspapers reported that the PSB is likely to announce Silva, who was Campos' running mate, as its presidential candidate next week.

On Friday, a key PSB coalition ally told Reuters that consensus was building around a Silva candidacy but that many issues still had to be ironed out before a final decision could be made.

"There appears to be consensus in the party that Marina should take Eduardo's place," Roberto Freire, leader of the Popular Socialist Party, told Reuters.

Campos, a popular former governor of Pernambuco state, was killed in a plane crash on Wednesday on the way to a campaign event in the southeastern coastal city of Santos. The accident upended Brazil's presidential race, with pollsters and analysts saying there is now a greater chance that the election will be decided in a second-round runoff on Oct. 26.

The first-round vote is scheduled for Oct. 5.

Campos, 49, was in third place in opinion polls, trailing President Dilma Rousseff of the leftist Workers' Party and Aecio Neves, the centrist opposition candidate from the Brazilian Social Democracy Party.

Silva, who placed a strong third in the 2010 presidential race as the Green Party candidate, is hugely popular among younger voters who are disillusioned with Brazil's political establishment. A devout Christian, she also has a loyal following among evangelical voters, an increasingly influential demographic in Brazil.

A Silva candidacy could deprive Rousseff of the votes she needs to avoid a runoff between the two best-placed candidates. A new survey to be published on Monday will show whether Silva has more support than Neves, who has been running second place in the polls.

(Additional reporting by Todd Benson; Editing by Erica Billingham)

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