Brazil's Rousseff to face runoff presidential vote

Hopeful to become country's first female president narrowly fails to get 50 percent of vote; will be pitted against Jose Serra in 2nd round of balloting.

October 4, 2010 04:48
2 minute read.
Dilma Rousseff, presidential candidate for the Wor

Rousseff 311. (photo credit: Associated Press)

SAO PAULO — A former Marxist guerrilla chosen by Brazil's beloved leader to succeed him will face a centrist rival in a presidential runoff after narrowly failing to get enough votes to win Sunday's election outright, according to official results.

Dilma Rousseff, a 62-year-old career bureaucrat trying to become Brazil's first female president on the ruling Workers Party ticket, captured 46.6 percent of the vote but needed 50 percent to win in the first round of balloting.

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Former Sao Paulo state governor Jose Serra got 32.8 percent support, while Green Party candidate Marina Silva got a surprising 19.5 percent, likely spoiling Rousseff's chance of a first-round win by syphoning off votes. The results came with 98 percent of the votes counted, according to Brazil's Supreme Electoral Court.

The runoff election on Oct. 31 will pit Serra against Rousseff, who analysts say will be the heavy favorite, though a series of recent scandals could hurt the ruling party candidate

"A second round is a whole new ball game. Everything starts from zero," said Alexandre Barros, with the Early Warning political risk group in Brasilia. "I would say Dilma has a strong chance of winning a second round. But it will all depend on what new facts emerge during the campaign."

Rousseff is the personal choice of outgoing President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, universally known as Lula, who led Brazil to unparalleled economic growth, increased the nation's political clout on the global stage, and leaves office with 80 percent approval ratings.

Rousseff has left behind her radical rebel youth and pledged to stick to the pragmatic market-friendly policy charted by Silva that have lifted millions out of poverty.

Serra is a 68-year-old from the Brazilian Social Democracy Party and former mayor and governor of Sao Paulo who was badly defeated by Silva in the 2002 election. He, too, has promised to continue the policies of Silva.

"In the last election, I voted for Lula, who has improved the lives of millions of poor and made Brazil a country respected around the world," said Maria Silveira, a 63-year-old retired teacher voting in Sao Bernardo do Campo, just outside Sao Paulo, where Silva also cast his ballot. "It only makes sense to vote for the candidate who I know will continue what he started."

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