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Dilma Rousseff leads in presidential vote count

Brazil's ruling party candidate Dilma Rousseff is leading Sunday's presidential race, according to results released by the country's Supreme Electoral Tribunal.


Brazil's ruling party candidate and sitting President Lula's protégée Dilma Rousseff has garnered 45.4 percent of votes in Sunday's presidential race, with almost 80 percent of the ballots counted. The main opposition candidate, Jose Serraversus, has 33.9 percent, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal announced shortly after polls closed on Sunday.

Rousseff needs an absolute majority of ballots (more than 50 percent) to avoid a runoff in four weeks' time. If elected, she will be the first woman to lead Brazil.

Nearly 136 million Brazilians cast their ballots earlier in the day  to choose a successor for President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Voting in the world’s fourth most populous democracy is electronic and most often free of major problems.

The top electoral tribunal said on Sunday that no incidents of violence disrupting voting were reported during the day, though 650 people were arrested for illegally campaigning, trucking in voters, or trying to buy votes.

Lula’s ‘Iron Lady’

Left-leaning Rousseff, nicknamed  'Iron lady' for her no-nonsense demeanor, campaigned to continue Lula’s mix of market-friendly policies and social programs that have nurtured a long boom in Latin America’s largest economy.

But a slew of ethics allegations against the Workers' Party and a former Rousseff aide stemmed Rousseff's momentum, as did a late slip in support from Brazil's millions of evangelical Christrians over the candidate's prior comments arguing for the decriminalisation of abortion.

Largely unknown just one year ago, the candidate Brazilians simply call “Dilma” got a major boost from Lula’s endorsement, as the exiting president remains a popular figure (recent surveys have his favorability rating at around 80%). According to FRANCE 24 correspondent Pierre Ludovic Viollat, Lula's humble origins indeed make Brazil's "poorest people feel like he's a member of their family". 

Reporting from Sao Paulo,Viollat said that Lula's ability to remain a well-liked figure for much of the Brazilian population is the key to Rousseff's electoral success. "He was able to stay close to the people who voted for him in for two terms", Viollat explained, "and they will almost automatically vote today for the successor he has chosen".

Lula himself voted Sunday morning in San Bernardo do Campo, in the state of Sao Paulo, pausing to tell reporters that he “regretted” not being able to be on the ballot. Lula has been in power for eight years and the maximum of two consecutive terms, and Sunday's vote was the first presidential election since the fall of the military dictatorship in 1989 without his name on the ballot.

Dilma victory ‘only a matter of time’

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.

Even if a knockout round does occur on October 31, all pre-election surveys agreed that Rousseff would ultimately become Brazil's first female president.

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.

Brazilians also voted for 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.

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