Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff set for victory in presidential run-off

2014-10-06 09:18

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Rio de Janeiro – Brazil’s first female president, Dilma Rousseff, looks all but certain to win a second term after topping the first round vote despite taking flak from rivals for her handling of a recession-hit economy.

With nearly 99% of votes counted, Rousseff had a tally of 41.46%, easily enough to send her into a run-off against Social Democrat Aecio Neves on 33.7% after he left environmentalist Marina Silva trailing in third on 21.29%.

Rousseff has been favourite to retain her post aside from a week in late August to early September, when polls made Silva a narrow run-off winner after she took the Socialist baton from Eduardo Campos, who was killed in an air crash.

But while she has retained support for broadening out the huge welfare programmes that have lifted about 40 million people out of poverty over the past decade, Rousseff’s four years in office have seen growth slide and the economy fall into recession.

As a result, her own rating dived when former PT colleague Silva arrived on the scene promising a “new politics”.

But Rousseff pugnaciously attacked Silva, accusing her of wanting to rein in the social reforms that helped expand Brazil’s middle class and underpinned a consumer boom, which is now a fading memory.

By mid-September she had opened up a seven-point opinion poll lead which she carried on extending through to yesterday, blaming the economic slowdown on the global crisis, whereas her critics derided what they see as over-interventionist policy.

A cool technocrat – and a cool campaigner compared with charismatic Lula – Rousseff is known for her strong technical grasp of government business.

Lula was quickly won over by Rousseff, seeing “something different” about her.

He appointed her energy minister in his first term and then his chief of staff between 2005 and 2010, when she went forward as his choice of PT presidential candidate.

Rousseff has had to develop a thick skin. She has come under heavy fire from opponents in recent months over corruption scandals at state-owned energy giant Petrobras, whose advisory board she chaired when the firm purchased the Pasadena refinery in Texas for some 28 times what the previous owners had paid.

Congress is now investigating another scandal over allegations by a former Petrobras director that dozens of politicians – many PT members or allies – received huge kickbacks on oil deals.

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