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Brazil's Rousseff extends first-round lead in elections

An almost-certain second-round runoff was tied with Silva at 42 percent, one percentage point ahead of Rousseff, who is vying for second term in office.

Brazil's Rousseff extends first-round lead in elections

By Ben Tavener


Brazil's incumbent president Dilma Rousseff has extended her first-round lead over main rival Marina Silva, but a highly-likely runoff in October's presidential elections remains a tie, a poll of voter intentions published Monday showed.

The results of a Vox Populi poll, commissioned by Brazil's Record television network and which surveyed 2,000 people Sept. 13-14, said Workers' Party candidate Rousseff received 36 percent of voter support, nine points ahead of Silva, Socialist Party candidate, who came in at 27 percent.

Aécio Neves, the center-of-right Social Democracy Party candidate, took just 15 percent and would be eliminated. 

The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.2 percentage points. The previous Vox Populi survey had Silva at 28 percent, but the other candidates were unchanged.

An almost-certain second-round runoff was tied with Silva at 42 percent, one percentage point ahead of Rousseff, who is vying for second term in office.

Rival pollsters Datafolha and Ibope have also shown Rousseff's chances improving in the first round, and Silva's victory in the simulated runoff reduced to a draw.

Monday's poll, however, has the widest first-round gap between the top two vote-getters since Silva was confirmed as a candidate in late August, after the death of the Socialist Party's original candidate, Eduardo Campos, in a plane crash Aug. 13.

The tumult of Silva's dramatic entry into the race for the Planalto initially upended the election, and shot the wildcard candidate and renownned environmentalist to a projected runoff victory, after round-the-clock coverage from rolling news channels followed her every move.

- Lack of exposure harms Silva

Record commentator Ricardo Kotscho labeled the elections the "most unpredictable and hardest-fought presidential elections since the redemocratization of the country.”

"The polls have confirmed a close fight between Marina and Dilma, both in the first and second rounds ... and only an extremely serious event, or accusations leveled directly at candidates – which I do not believe will happen – could cause yet another turnaround in these elections."

The child of illiterate Amazonian rubber-tappers, Silva was eliminated in the first round of the 2010 presidential elections and runs on an anti-establishment, green platform, but has enjoyed the support in the 2014 race from younger voters, disenchanted with Brazil's corrupt politics, by reiterating calls for major reform which resonated across Brazil in mass street protests in June 2013.

She also has a strong following among Brazilian booming evangelical Christian population.

Campos' 9 percent first-round support skyrocketed into the 30s under Silva, who performed well in two initial television debates, and took advantage of the impact of the moment.

The most crucial TV debate, however, the highly-anticipated Globo network clash, is scheduled to take place Oct. 2. In the interim, Rousseff and her party allies have enjoyed far more free advertising time on the country's televison and radio airways due to their congressional representation.

The Socialist Party candidate has attempted to counter this by scoring points from a political scandal involving the country's state-run oil giant Petrobras, as Rousseff was on the board of directors and many of those accused of being embroiled in a kickback scheme in exchange for congressional support are affiliated with Rousseff's electoral coalition.

Campos was also listed by the scandal's whistle-blower, a jailed former Petrobras director, who is providing information as part of a plea-bargain, and despite Silva's mud-slinging, little appears to have stuck. An event in favor of the country's much-speculated, ultra-deep "pre-salt" oil reserves in Rio de Janeiro on Monday attended by Rousseff's predecessor, the popular former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, essentially turned into an "anti-Marina rally," local media reported.

Targeting different ends of the political spectrum may have diluted support for Silva, who has courted businesses after the polls appeared to eliminate the market favorite, Aécio Neves, but she has also been keen to woo poorer, traditional Workers' Party voters, with promises of "improving" family benefits.

Brazilians go to the polls Oct. 5 for a first round of voting. If no candidate receives 50 percent of votes, a second round will be held Oct. 26.


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