Dilma Rousseff likely to win

October 31, 2010 12:00 am

, BRASILIA, Oct 31 – President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of Brazil looked likely Sunday to welcome his former cabinet chief Dilma Rousseff as his elected successor after a runoff in which she was the unassailable favorite.

All surveys showed Rousseff, 62, with a dominating 14-point lead over opposition rival Jose Serra, the 68-year-old former state governor of Sao Paulo.

If her victory is confirmed, Rousseff will become Brazil\’s first female president, taking charge of the biggest economy in Latin America as it enjoys a new era of prosperity built during Lula\’s eight years in power.

The country\’s 135 million voters were being called out to decide the race. Voting is compulsory.

In the first round, on October 3, Rousseff fell just short of the majority of ballots needed to avert the runoff, scoring 47 percent to Serra\’s 33 percent.

Analysts said the second round was certain to result in a Rousseff win.

"Everything indicates that candidate Rousseff will be elected president," said Guilherme Carvalhido, a political science professor at Veiga de Almeida University in Rio de Janeiro.

"The numbers by the polling institutes converge and there is also a consolidation of votes, and this has reduced the number of undecideds," he said.

Rousseff and Serra wrapped up campaigning Saturday in Belo Horizonte, the main city in the southern state of Minas Gerais and the second biggest electoral college in the country.

Rousseff, who grew up in the city, told supporters: "I am going to work for a united Brazil, I am going to work for all Brazilians without exception."

Serra, in a separate part of Belo Horizonte, told a crowd he was going to build upon the policies of Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Lula\’s predecessor who introduced the fiscal policies underpinning Brazil\’s financial stability.

"We will not do the work of a man, a party or a single government," he said.

Carvalhido said "the only possibly surprising factor in this election could be the number of abstentions."

"The proportion was 18 percent in the first round and there is a risk it could be 25 percent of more in the second round," he said.

That likelihood was compounded by the fact that many Brazilians were taking advantage of a long weekend extended into a public holiday next Tuesday.

A final televised debate between the two candidates late Friday failed to inject any new information or changes into the direction of the election.

Both Serra and Rousseff stepped back from the insults they had traded in earlier debates, and focused on economic and social issues without scoring any major points against the other.

Both are bureaucrats respected for their management skills, but lack the commanding charisma of Lula.

Serra won respect for his stint as a health minister during which he championed generic copies of HIV drugs for seropositive patients.

Rousseff, who owes her advantage in the election to support from hugely popular Lula, was a former guerrilla in the 1970s imprisoned and tortured for belonging to a violent underground group opposing the then-military dictatorship.

A dour yet determined woman, she softened her image ahead of the elections with a cosmetic makeover.

She told supporters she was "confident" of taking over from Lula when he steps down at the end of the year, having completed the maximum two consecutive terms permitted under the constitution.


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