Brazil now faces Runoff vote

October 4, 2010 12:00 am

, BRASILIA, Oct 4 – Dilma Rousseff, the woman President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva wants to succeed him in office, faces a runoff vote after falling unexpectedly short of an outright victory in Brazil\’s presidential election.

The official tally for Sunday\’s vote showed that Rousseff, Lula\’s former cabinet chief, with 47 percent of the vote against 33 percent for her nearest rival, former Sao Paulo state governor Jose Serra.

That was short of the 50-percent-plus-one-ballot threshold Rousseff needed to avoid an October 31 knockout round against Serra — a vote all pre-election surveys said Rousseff should have been able to avoid.

Serra\’s attempt to tar Rousseff with scandals swirling in her camp and the ruling Workers Party in the days before the election appeared to pay off.

But the real benefactor was Green Party candidate Marina Silva, Lula\’s former environment minister, whose 19 percent share put her in third place, far higher than the 14 percent she was forecast to win.

"We defended a victorious idea and Brazil heard our cry," Silva, 52, told reporters after the vote.

Silva is seen as a kingmaker because her votes could prove decisive to either Rousseff or Serra in the runoff election.

"I go into this second round with courage and energy because it gives me a chance to better lay out my proposals and plans," Rousseff told disappointed supporters in Brasilia, flanked by Worker\’s Party officials with deflated looks.

Pre-vote surveys predicted Rousseff would win 50 to 52 percent of the ballots, They also suggested Rousseff would handily beat Serra in the second round to become Brazil\’s first woman president.

At a noisy post-vote event Serra thanked his supporters. "We\’re heading towards victory and the presidency!" he told his cheering supporters.

Serra called on "the parties, politicians and well meaning Brazilians" to "build a better country."

Carlos Alberto de Melo, a political analyst at the Insper Institute in Sao Paulo, told AFP the shift to Silva "was a protest vote by part of the electorate who weren\’t convinced by Dilma or Serra, and who finally voted for Marina to play for time and force a second round."

In local races, the opposition held on to the governor\’s seat in Sao Paulo and Minas Gerais, Brazil\’s two most populous states, but Lula supporters won a crushing victory in Rio de Janeiro, an oil state where the 2016 Olympics will be held.

In the senate, early results show that the Worker\’s Party and its allies are likely to have 49 of the 81 available seats, increasing their number by six. The makeup of the lower house however was unclear.

Voting is compulsory in Brazil.

Lula, 64, Brazil\’s wildly popular president, is leaving office at the end of the year after serving the maximum two straight terms permitted under Brazil\’s constitution.

He has thrown his full weight behind getting Rousseff, 62, elected, promising voters she would continue his policies that have brought prosperity to Latin America\’s biggest nation, the world\’s eighth-ranked economy.

Brazil\’s economy — booming thanks to financial stability, strong exports, soaring domestic consumption and poverty eradication overseen on his watch — is forecast to grow by more than seven percent this year.

The High Electoral Tribunal said no incidents of violence disrupting voting were reported during the day, though 650 people were arrested for illegally campaigning, trucking in voters or trying to buy votes. Forty-three of those detained were candidates for public office.


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