Rousseff falls short of outright win in Brazil election

Supporters of Jose Serra wave flags after hearing that he goes to the second round, 3 October 2010 For Serra's supporters, a second round is an achievement in itself

Brazil's presidential election will go to a second round after Dilma Rousseff failed to gain the 50% of votes needed for an outright victory.

With 98% of votes counted, President Lula's former cabinet chief has 47% with Jose Serra trailing on 33%.

The two will contest a run-off vote in four weeks' time.

A strong showing by the Green Party candidate, Marina Silva, who polled 19%, may have cost Ms Rousseff a first-round win.

"We can confirm there will be a second round in the presidential elections," Ricardo Lewandowski, the president of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal, told reporters in Brasilia late on Sunday.

Workers Party candidate Dilma Rousseff is the favoured successor to President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who has completed two terms, and cannot run for a third.

"We are warriors, and we are accustomed to challenges," she said in a speech in Brasilia after the result was announced. "We do well in second rounds."

Ms Rousseff was the front runner for much of the campaign and benefited from Lula's widespread popularity and the country's booming economy.


Dilma Rousseff is still on course to become Brazil's first woman president, but her face and tone in addressing supporters betrayed her disappointment. Until a week ago, the polls consistently pointed to Dilma scoring a knock-out blow in this first round of voting; now, she faces the uncertainty of four more weeks of campaigning.

What happened? A critical mass of support seems to have fallen away in the days immediately before polling - partly the consequence of a corruption scandal involving a former adviser, and partly the fall-out of a row over Dilma's stance on abortion.

Evangelical Christians reacted badly to reports that the presidential favourite planned to liberalise Brazil's strict abortion law - a claim she denied - and some appear to have shifted their loyalty to the Green Party candidate, Marina Silva, who is herself a devout evangelical Christian.

Marina put in a strong showing in third place and, while not quite a kingmaker, her views on the second round will be influential in determining the result. For now, she is suggesting that Green Party members - with their 19% of the vote - should collectively decide on whether to endorse Dilma, Serra, or neither.

The rather dour Jose Serra will need to up his game after an often confused and lacklustre initial campaign. But four weeks is an eternity in electoral politics, so don't assume that a Dilma victory is a foregone conclusion.

Many analysts believe a scandal involving her directly would be the only scenario under which she could lose a runoff.


"This is an electoral climate that favours the incumbent party," political analyst Luiz Piva told the Reuters news agency. "Brazilians are generally very happy with their government."

Centre-left candidate Jose Serra, the Social Democratic former governor of Sao Paulo state, had seen a boost in his support after corruption allegations surfaced involving a former aide of Ms Rousseff.

But Ms Silva seems to also have benefited. The third-place candidate's 19% share of the ballots was far higher than the 14% forecast for her.

"We defended a victorious idea and Brazil heard our cry," Ms Silva said in reaction to the result.

Brazil, one of the world's most populous democracies, was also choosing local and national representatives.

Voting is compulsory in Brazil, with results coming quickly, thanks to Brazil's electronic voting system.

Ms Rousseff, 62, served as Lula's chief of staff from 2005 until this year, and is a career civil servant. Her run for the presidency is her first attempt at elected office.

During the 1960s and 1970s she was involved in the armed struggle against Brazil's military rulers, and was jailed for three years.

The 68-year-old Mr Serra is hugely experienced, having served as Sao Paulo mayor, Sao Paulo state governor and health minister under President Fernando Henrique Cardoso Mr Lula's predecessor. He lost the presidential election in a run-off to Mr Lula in 2002.

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