Rousseff widens Brazil vote lead, challengers even

Oct 03, 2014, 7:55 AM EDT
razilian President and candidate of Brazilian presidential election for the Workers Party (PT) Dilma Rousseff (L) and Marina Silva, a candidate for the Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB), attend their last TV debate in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on October 2, 2014.
AFP/Getty Images

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has extended her lead ahead of Sunday's election and would win re-election in a likely second-round runoff, while her main challengers are almost tied for second place, polls showed on Thursday. Reuters reports:

Environmentalist Marina Silva has continued to slip and is now only 3 percentage points ahead of centrist candidate Aecio Neves, according to the Datafolha polling firm, a statistical tie because it is within the poll's margin of error.

Rousseff has advanced to within 3 percentage points of an outright victory in the first-round voting, or 47 percent, when spoilt and blank ballots are excluded, Datafolha said. If no candidate wins a majority, the election will be decided in a runoff between the two leading candidates on Oct. 26.

Rousseff's increased chances of winning a second term have weighed down Brazil's markets where investors are hoping for a change of government. Some blame Rousseff's interventionist policies for the stagnation of Latin America's largest economy.

Both the Datafolha poll and another by the Ibope research firm show Rousseff winning a runoff against Silva by 7 percentage points.

Opinion polls suggest the electorate will give a clear, but inconclusive victory to Rousseff in this weekend’s elections for the presidency thanks largely to her income redistribution policies. The Guardian writes:

After a topsy-turvy year for the country and one of the most up-and-down political campaigns in recent memory, about 40% of Brazilians look likely to vote for Workers’ party stability rather than experiment with the environmentally sustainable government promised by the president’s main challenger, Marina Silva (who is polling about 25%), or return to the Social Democrat past represented by Aécio Neves (third with 20%).

If the surveys are accurate, that would set the stage on 26 October for a first-ever run-off between two women to decide who leads this traditionally macho nation and the world’s seventh largest economy. Both have extraordinary backgrounds. Rousseff is a former Marxist activist who was imprisoned and tortured during the military dictatorship.

Silva is from a poor, mixed-race family of Amazonian rubber-tappers who campaigned alongside the late union activist and environmentalist Chico Mendes. They served together as ministers in the first administration of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, though now offer divergent views about the country’s future, particularly with regard to the economy.

This more than any other issue is crucial. Although there have been many contentious issues – a massive corruption scandal at the country’s biggest oil company Petrobras, the rising power of evangelical Christianity and widening social tensions over same-sex marriage and abortion, voters appear to be most influenced by the most traditional of factors: the money in their pockets.