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Brazilians head to polls to elect Lula's successor

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2010-10-03

Brazilian voters are voting to choose their new president. Dilma Rousseff, frontrunner and protégée of outgoing President Lula da Silva, is expected to become Brazil’s first woman head of state.

Brazilians are preparing to turn a page of their history. President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has been in power for eight years (and the maximum of two consecutive terms), and will now pass the torch. On Sunday, some 136 million voters will choose his successor in the first presidential election since 1989 without Lula on the ballot.

Workers' Party candidate Dilma Rousseff goes into the election as the favourite, with a poll published on Wednesday showing 54.7% of Brazilian voters supporting her. Largely unknown just one year ago, the candidate Brazilians simply call “Dilma” has gotten a major boost from Lula’s endorsement, as the exiting president remains a popular figure (recent surveys have his favorability rating at around 80%).

Also nicknamed “Iron Lady”, Dilma Rousseff could be elected in the first round of voting, making her the first woman to lead the South American country. Rousseff’s father was a lawyer of Bulgarian descent and her mother was a Brazilian teacher. Rousseff herself is known for having been a guerrilla under the military dictatorship, spending three years in prison, where she was tortured.

At 62, Rousseff has never been elected to office. Lula named her Minister of Energy and later his Chief of Staff; for the latter position, Rousseff replaced José Dirceu, who was forced to resign in the wake of a corruption scandal.

Dilma victory ‘only a matter of time’

Dilma’s opponents trail her considerably in the polls. Her main rival, former Sao Paulo Governor Jose Serra (Brazilian Social Democracy Party), has only around 28% support according to polls. At the beginning of the summer, he was leading those polls. As for Lula’s former Environment Minister Marina da Silva, the candidate has been polling at a dismal 14%.

If Rousseff is not elected in the first round of voting on Sunday, a runoff will take place October 31. But political commentators see little suspense: Rousseff’s victory “is only a matter of time: Sunday, October 3, or Sunday, October 31”, affirmed Carlos Lopes, an analyst at the Santafé Ideias institute, in an interview with French news agency AFP. “The majority of the electorate is voting for the continuity that Lula’s candidate represents, and I don’t think that Serra or Marina Silva can change that”, he said.

Brazilians will also elect 531 representatives from the National Assembly on Sunday, as well as a portion of the Senate, governors, and representatives of 27 of the country’s states. The Workers’ Party, currently in power, is expected to keep its majority in Congress.

LUCAS MENGET REPORTING FROM RIO DE JANEIRO

Date created : 2010-10-02

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