Brazilians struggle to replace Silva

A late surge by the Green Party
candidate in Brazil’s election siphoned votes away from the presidential
favourite and has sent the election into a potentially combative runoff ballot
later this month.

Workers’ Party candidate and
odds-on favourite Dilma Rousseff won 46.9 per cent of the vote and will face
former Health Minister Jose Serra of the Brazilian Social Democratic Party in a
runoff on 31 October. Mr. Serra placed second with 32.6 per cent.

Marina Silva, the Green Party
outsider who had been polling in the low teens, placed third with 19.3 per cent,
making her the most successful third-party candidate in more than 20 years and
the day’s big winner.

But if
the result was a victory for Ms. Silva, it was a disappointment for Ms.
Rousseff, who, although she had never ran for office before, had the vociferous
backing of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, the most popular president in
recent history.

Opinion polls in the weeks before
the ballot had shown Rousseff close to winning an absolute majority, though her
support fell amid several recent scandals as well as rumours that she would
decriminalize abortion. Silva was also favoured by people disillusioned by
two-party politics.

Silva appealed to her rivals to
heed her 20 million votes and adopt a more constructive dialogue during the
coming runoff campaign. “Take advantage of this second chance that Brazil has
given us to debate the issues that are truly of interest,” Silva said.

The
result could force Serra and Rousseff to adopt more combative styles after
months of avoiding direct confrontation. Serra will benefit from having equal
television time and he is expected to be more confrontational than during the
lukewarm campaign that preceded Sunday’s vote.

How the two parties may alter their
campaign strategies is still unclear, but the Workers’ Party is not expected to
make substantial changes. It has the advantage of having won from this same
position four and eight years ago.