New poll shows major shake-up for Brazil elections

Anadolu Agency

SÃO PAULO — Marina Silva would place second in the first round of the upcoming presidential elections, forcing a runoff in which she would tie with incumbent president, Dilma Rousseff, according to the first poll taken after the death of presidential candidate Eduardo Campos, killed in a plane crash last week.

Silva was Campos’s running mate and is all but certain to be announced by the Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB) as its electoral coalition’s new presidential candidate, expected this Wednesday.

According to the new Datafolha poll, Rousseff would take 36 percent of votes in the first round on 5 October, followed by 21 percent for Silva and 20 percent for Aécio Neves — requiring a runoff on 26 October.

A Rousseff-Silva second round would then be technically tied, given the margin or error of two percentage points either way, with 47 percent for Silva and 43 percent for Rousseff.

A runoff against Neves would see a win for Rousseff, with 47 percent to Neves’s 39 percent.

The latest poll surveyed 2,843 eligible voters in 176 municipalities on 14-15 August, the two days following the plane crash which killed Campos and six others.

The previous Datafolha poll, in mid-July, gave Rousseff and Neves the same result, with Campos trailing on eight percent.

Although highly unlikely to have won the 2014 elections, Campos, who was 49 when he died, was widely tipped to be major force in the future of Brazilian politics.

Sympathy vote?

Experts say the additional votes for Silva have come from a mixture of lower results for other parties – now down from eight to five percent; fewer undecided voters, which decreased to nine percent from 14 percent; and less of the electorate planning on spoiling their ballot or not voting at all – down from 13 to eight percent in the new poll.

However, Nick Piper, chief Americas analyst at the red24 crisis management assistance company, urges caution with the latest figures: “Polls too far away from the actual vote are only indicative of what will happen. Early polling becomes even harder to draw conclusions from in the event of unexpected events,” he tells AA.

“Silva hasn’t won significant support from those who previously showed an intention to vote for Rousseff or Neves: their supporters are less likely to be swayed by an event such as a candidate dying than those who were sitting on the fence.”

Many commentators predicted that shock among the electorate caused by last week’s fatal plane crash – including ongoing TV coverage of both the aftermath of the incident and the ceremonial funeral – would lead to boost in support for environmentalist Silva, who ran in 2010 presidential elections for the Green Party and won a surprisingly strong 19 percent of the vote.

“The increase seen in this poll, I believe, is the result of the emotion from the event itself. However, it had already been predicted that, were Silva to head the PSB ticket, she would overtake Neves — and this should now stick,” Maria do Socorro Braga, a political scientist from the Federal University of São Carlos, told the Anadolu Agency (AA).

Braga says the situation could change once nationwide political broadcasts start this week on national television and radio. This might hurt Silva, as the time allotted to the PSB-led coalition will be less than for her two main rivals’, but will also depend on her performance, experts suggest.

It will also depends, experts say, on the party’s choice of new vice candidate, which the party has also yet to confirm.

Some good news for Rousseff

The results are likely to be a concern for both Rousseff and Neves, but the new poll did, however, bring some good news for the incumbent president.

Although her slice of the vote remained at 36 percent, insufficient to secure victory in the first round, her government’s approval rating saw a marked improvement, with 38 percent of voters now evaluating the rule coalition’s performance as “good” or “excellent” – up from 32 percent in the previous poll.

However, many voters continue to reject Rousseff’s politics and businesses have often criticised tight grip on fiscal policy, which they blame for the current lacklustre performance of the Brazilian economy.

Given both Campos and Silva went from working with to rejecting Rousseff’s Workers’ Party in recent years, this could give additional weight to the PSB’s new campaign.

Environment minister under President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and a former senator, Silva is also better known to the electorate than Campos was, and experts say she should be able to lure younger members of the electorate, as well as evangelical voters – a growing and increasingly powerful segment of the population.

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