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Brazil’s president Dilma Rousseff has widened her lead over her main rival, socialist party candidate Marina Silva, in elections due to kick off this Sunday, according to two influential polls released on Tuesday evening.
Worse for Ms Silva, a steady decline in support means she is now facing a battle to make it through to the election’s likely second-round run-off on October 26, with third-placed candidate Aécio Neves of the pro-business PSDB party gaining ground.
“The poll confirms Dilma is the favourite for victory in the second-round run-off . . . and perhaps more importantly, the increasing competition between Aécio and Marina Silva with a difference of only 5 percentage points between them,” said Mauro Paulino, director-general of polling firm Datafolha on news site TV Folha.
Indications of an unexpectedly sharp plunge in support for Ms Silva is playing havoc with markets, which see her as more market-friendly than President Rousseff, whom investors have criticised for interventionism.
Brazil’s currency, the real, suffered its worst quarterly depreciation in three years in the September quarter, weakening 9.5 per cent to end at 2.4469 against the dollar on Tuesday, while the Ibovespa benchmark stock index has declined 12 per cent this month, Bloomberg reported.
If Brazil’s election were held today, Ms Rousseff would win in a likely second round with 49 per cent of votes, an eight percentage point lead over Ms Silva with 41 per cent, according to the Datafolha poll. This compared with 47 per cent for Ms Rousseff versus 43 per cent for Ms Silva in the previous poll on September 25-26.
It said support for Ms Silva in the first round had declined from 27 percentage points to 25 during the same period while backing for Mr Neves rose from 18 per cent to 20 per cent.
The poll showed that in a simulated second-round run-off against the president, Mr Neves would not fare much worse than Ms Silva, with a projected nine percentage point loss to Ms Rousseff.
A separate poll by Ibope showed Ms Rousseff winning the second round with 42 per cent support compared with Ms Silva’s 38 per cent. In the previous poll from Ibope a week ago, the pair were even at 41 per cent.
Ibope estimated support for Ms Silva in the first round at 25 per cent, down from 29 per cent, while Mr Neves remained unchanged at 19 per cent.
The poll confirms Dilma is the favourite for victory in the second-round run-off . . . and perhaps more importantly, the increasing competition between Aécio and Marina Silva
- Mauro Paulino, polling firm Datafolha
Ms Silva soared to the top of the polls on a sympathy vote when she took over the presidential candidacy of Brazilian Socialist party politician Eduardo Campos, her former running mate who was killed in a plane crash while campaigning.
But she lacks the television exposure or the resources of Ms Rousseff, who is backed by one of the biggest parties in Congress.
Ms Rousseff has used her generous advertising budget to launch a negative campaign against Ms Silva, a former senator and environment minister who comes from a humble background.
Thanks to her larger party in Congress, Ms Rousseff has five times more TV advertising time than Ms Silva as well as greater exposure as head of state.
However, if Ms Silva survives the first round, she can still stage a comeback in the interlude before the second round on October 26.
According to Brazilian electoral rules, both candidates have equal free TV advertising time after the first round.
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