Brazilian presidential election likely headed for runoff
Brazilians go to the polls today to elect a president, and with none of the three major candidates likely to crack 50%, the chances are good that the top two finishers are headed for an October 26 runoff to decide the winner.
Incumbent President Dilma Rousseff is squaring off against a telegenic and popular environmentalist and a free market senator.
As President Dilma Rousseff seeks a second term, voters are weighing whether the socioeconomic gains of the last decade are enough to reject the candidacies of a popular environmentalist and a pro-business social democrat, who both promise to jump-start the economy after four years of lackluster growth.
Polls show Rousseff as the front runner in a race that is likely to go to a runoff on Oct. 26, following one of the most competitive campaigns since Brazil returned to democracy in 1985.
The death of one candidate, the unexpected surge of another, and fierce marketing by Rousseff to claw back into the lead have contributed to a nail-biter election as uncertain as the course of the country itself.
"It really is too close to call," said Rafael Cortez, a political analyst with Tendencias, a consultancy in Sao Paulo. "Volatility and frustration favor opposition candidates, but you don't really have a crisis to topple the government, either."
Queues formed early Sunday as citizens prepared to cast ballots when voting started at 8 a.m. local time. Rousseff, wearing the Workers' Party's signature red, voted shortly after polls opened in the southern city of Porto Alegre, where she lived and rose in the state bureaucracy in the 1990s.
Rousseff's main rivals are Marina Silva, a hero of the global conservation movement and ruling party defector now with the Brazilian Socialist Party, and Aecio Neves, a senator and former state governor from the centrist party that laid the groundwork for Brazil's economic boom last decade.
The two opposition candidates, in a last-minute sprint for runner-up, both promise to return to the market-friendly economic policies that critics say Rousseff abandoned, especially strict budget and inflation targets. They also say they will stop meddling with big, state-run banks and companies that have been subject to political intervention and corruption scandals.
After trailing Silva for most of the campaign, Neves may have built up enough momentum to advance to a runoff against Rousseff. Three polls on Saturday showed Neves slightly ahead of Silva.
Brazil is an incredibly resource-rich country whose economy grew over the last decade by an astonishing 4% a year. But the country is in a recession and a lot of people are mad at Rousseff for overspending on venues for the World Cup soccer tournament and the Rio Olympics to be held in 2016 while failing to improve public transportation, health care, and other infrastructure.
With the opposition vote split, Rousseff still has a chance at garnering 50% of the vote and avoiding a runoff. But Silva and Neves are both attracting Rousseff supporters in the laboring classes and it is likely she'll come up a little short.