Rousseff extends first-round lead; ties with Silva in runoff

Anadolu Agency

SÃO PAULO — 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, the 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 on 13 August.

The tumult of Silva’s dramatic entry into the race for the Planalto initially upended the election, and shot the wildcard candidate and renowned environmentalist to a projected runoff victory, after round-the-clock media coverage tracked her every move and reported every word the candidate uttered.

Lack of exposure harms Silva

Record commentator Ricardo Kotscho labelled the elections the “most unpredictable and hardest-fought presidential elections since the redemocratisation of the country [in the late 1980s].”

“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.”

Raised in a family of illiterate Amazonian rubber-tappers, Silva was eliminated in the first round of the 2010 presidential elections and is running on an anti-establishment, green platform, but has enjoyed the support in this year’s race from younger voters, disenchanted with Brazil’s corrupt politics.

Silva has frequently reiterated 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’s nine-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.

However, the most crucial TV debate, the highly-anticipated Globo network clash, is only scheduled to take place on 2 October. In the interim, Rousseff and her party allies have enjoyed far more free advertising airtime on the country’s television and radio networks, which is allotted according to parties’ 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. 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 favour 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 favourite, Aécio Neves, but she has also been keen to woo poorer, traditional Workers’ Party voters, with promises of “improving” family benefits, such as the Bolsa Família.

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

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