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Brazil TV Star-Turned-Candidate Ruled Ineligible for Presidency

November 10, 1989|WILLIAM R. LONG | TIMES STAFF WRITER

RIO DE JANEIRO — Television star Silvio Santos, a late entrant and formidable contender in Brazil's presidential race, lost his bid for election Thursday, six days before the scheduled vote. The Superior Electoral Tribunal ruled him ineligible to be a candidate.

One reason given for the Thursday night ruling was that the tiny Brazilian Municipalist Party sponsoring Santos is not legally registered. Another was that he failed to comply with a 1970 law requiring candidates to remove themselves from the management of any company with a public concession, such as a broadcast license.

Santos, 58, is the owner of Brazil's second-largest television network. He is also the star of a popular all-afternoon variety show aired by the network on Sundays.

After he announced his candidacy at the beginning of November, he quickly emerged among the top presidential contenders in public opinion polls, displacing other leading candidates. Several parties and the federal attorney general filed legal challenges with the Superior Electoral Tribunal this week.

The seven-member tribunal's ruling against Santos was unanimous. Francisco Rezek, the tribunal president, said the decision did not involve constitutional issues, which would be the only grounds for an appeal.

There was no word from Santos after the ruling. At his house in the city of Sao Paulo, a maid told reporters that he had gone to bed with a headache.

A public opinion survey published Thursday before the Electoral Tribunal's ruling showed that those interviewed favored Santos by a narrow margin over Fernando Collor de Mello, a centrist reformer who previously had led most polls. The Thursday poll, by the Brazilian affiliate of the Gallup Poll, showed leftists Leonel Brizola and Luis Inacio da Silva tied for third.

If no candidate wins an absolute majority in the election next Wednesday, the two top finishers will compete in a runoff Dec. 17.

Brazilians have not elected a president since 1960. The armed forces ruled the country from 1964 to 1985, when civilian Jose Sarney took office as interim president.

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