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President Dilma Rousseff’s chances of re-election for a second term in October are hanging in the balance as Brazil prepares to kick off the opening game of the 2014 World Cup in São Paulo on Thursday.
The centre-left president staged animpassioned plea on television late Tuesday for Brazilians to abandon their scepticism about the expense of the tournament but polls showed her approval ratings sliding.
The latest poll from research firm Ibope showed voting intentions for Ms Rousseff had slipped to 38 per cent this month from 40 per cent in May, while the nearest opposition candidate, Aécio Neves, increased from 20 per cent to 22 per cent.
While most still see Ms Rousseff as a favourite to win, Nomura economist Tony Volpon said the odds were tipping against the incumbent.
“We now think Dilma is likely to lose to Aécio Neves in a closely-contested second round,” he said.
Brazil’s stock market rose on news of the poll.
Some signs of Brazil’s famously festive World Cup spirit were beginning to appear in its major cities on Wednesday, with some cars flying flags and streets being decorated in the national colours but analysts said it was less than usual.
The opening game between Brazil and Croatia comes as São Paulo’s metro workers are threatening to resume astrike that was suspended on Monday and while protest groups are urging demonstrations against the World Cup in at least seven cities.
“If the government does not accept our proposal, we will go back on strike and disrupt the World Cup,” said a spokesperson for the metro workers union, which is seeking to have workers dismissed this week by the government reinstated.
Ms Rousseff’s predecessor, former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, won the rights for Brazil to host the World Cup in 2007 amid a blaze of optimism surrounding the country’s future.
There is a growing perception in the host nation that money is being wasted on the tournament to the detriment of improved public services
But since then, the economy has slowed along with the other former high-growth Bric nations, which also include Russia, India and China.
Brazilians, though still enamoured with football and the World Cup, have become increasingly angry over the expenditure on the event while they are forced to cope with inadequate public transport, health and security.
The World Cup’s organising body, Fifa, meanwhile, has been exasperated with Brazil’s late preparations for the event.
Brazil has invested at least R$11bn ($4.93bn) in stadiums and airports for the World Cup but the event has been plagued by delays as federal, state and municipal governments have struggled to co-ordinate the implementation between them.
Ms Rousseff has dismissed concerns about the World Cup, however, as the work of “pessimists”.
She insisted the event would be an overwhelming success and that Brazil had built the necessary stadiums, airports and other infrastructure.
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