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Profile: Aecio Neves, Brazil's Social Democracy Party presidential candidate

RIO DE JANEIRO, Oct. 4 (Xinhua) -- Brazil's conservative presidential candidate for Sunday's general elections, Aecio Neves, hopes to bring his Social Democracy Party (PSDB) back to power after 12 years in the opposition, but it will be an uphill battle.

Polls show Neves trailing in the third place behind incumbent President Dilma Rousseff of the Workers' Party (PT) and Socialist Party (PSB) candidate Marina Silva.

A recent survey, published on Sept. 26, showed Neves has 18 percent support among the electorate, versus 40 percent for Rousseff and 27 percent for Silva.

Neves was born into a political family in Belo Horizonte, capital of southeast Minas Gerais state, in 1960. His grandfather Tancredo Neves was elected president in 1985, but died before taking office.

An economist by training, Neves graduated from the Pontifical Catholic University of Minas Gerais (PUC-Minas). He started his political career as his grandfather's personal secretary.

In 1987, Neves was elected federal deputy representing his home state, a post he occupied until 2003, when he stepped down to become the governor.

As governor of Minas Gerais, one of Brazil's largest and most populated states, Neves won praise for putting the state's ruined finances in order through a reorganization and modernization plan.

The plan instituted a cap on government spending, drastically reduced the number of state secretariats and cut 3,000 public-sector jobs, while improving services and reestablishing the state's investment capacity.

In keeping with his austerity measures, Neves cut his own salary by 45 percent and required his closest aides to do the same.

Only two years later, in 2004, he announced the state's finances had achieved a "zero deficit," while improving education by becoming the first state to extend basic schooling from eight to nine years, and distributing textbooks for free to middle school students, even in braille.

In 2006, he was reelected by a landslide to a second term, with over 77 percent of the votes, the biggest share of votes ever won by a governor in Minas Gerais.

In 2010, he resigned to serve in the senate and in 2013, he was elected president of his party, which in June named him as its presidential candidate in the Oct. 5 general elections.

Neves is running on a platform to recover Brazil's financial strength, boost productivity, establish a more business-friendly atmosphere and trim the size of government by closing ministries. He has promised, however, to preserve the ruling party's social programs, which have alleviated poverty.

He has also pledged to fight corruption and crime, improve education, give state and city governments greater autonomy, introduce tax reform, and propose longer five-year presidential terms in lieu of reelection.

Neves is a father of three children, a daughter from his first marriage (1991-1998) and twins born in June to his current wife Leticia Weber, whom he married in 2013.

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