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Brazil to decide on new president in a week’s time

SAO PAULO, Oct 23, (AFP) - In a week’s time, Brazil’s 136 million voters will decide their next president: the former right-hand woman of outgoing President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, or an efficient ex-governor of Sao Paulo state. The polls point to a likely victory for Lula’s choice: Dilma Rousseff, his 62-year-old former chief minister who narrowly missed out on outright victory in an October 3 first round of the presidential elections.

Jose Serra, the 68-year-old self-proclaimed technocrat who faces her in next week’s runoff, trails by a significant margin.

To get a shot at a possible upset, he has to snatch almost all the 19 million votes that went to a defeated Greens Party candidate in the first round, Marina Silva — an unlikely feat, analysts say.

But both Serra and Rousseff are doing all they can to sway Silva’s support base, most notably by wooing evangelical voters who flocked to her because of a perception that Rousseff would legislate the ruling Workers’ Party opposition to Brazil’s ban on abortion.

Rousseff’s advantage is clear, recent polls show.

On Thursday, the Ibope firm put Rouseff ahead with 51 percent of voter intentions, against 40 percent for Serra.

Vox Populi recently gave Rousseff the biggest lead, with 51 to 39 percent and Datafolha credited Lula’s chosen heir with 47 percent, to 41 percent for the ex-governor.

And another firm, Sensus, saw Rousseff with 47 percent and Serra with 43 percent — close to a statistical tie, given the typical margin of error of plus or minus two percentage points. After climbing slightly over past weeks, Serra seems to be stalling in his bid to pick up more votes, even in the wealthier southeast of the country which is his stronghold.

“Dilma is going up in the southeast and maintains her advantage in the north and the northeast. This isn’t good news for Serra, and the scales seem to be tipping in favor of Lula’s candidate,” a political analyst, David Fleisher, told AFP.

Rousseff, who has tried to soften her somewhat harsh, lumbering presentation through cosmetic surgery, is doing well in the polls largely thanks to the unprecedented popularity enjoyed by Lula, who has stumped tirelessly for her.

The outgoing president, who has to step down at the end of the year after finishing the maximum allowed two consecutive terms, has over 80 percent support.

His protegee has vowed to maintain his policies, which have brought financial stability and prosperity to Brazil while lifting millions out of poverty.

Serra, likewise, aims to pursue domestic policies in place, though he presages a rupture in the diplomatic area by dropping cosy relations with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and his radical leftist allies in Latin America.

Rousseff in particular is keen to make sure the issue of abortion does not trip her up again.

 

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