Brazil’s leftist President Dilma Rousseff placed first in Sunday’s election but did not get enough votes to avoid a runoff and will face pro-business rival Aecio Neves after he made a dramatic late surge into second place, partial results showed.
After Brazil’s most volatile campaign in decades, Neves’ emphasis on “safe change” and his record as a popular two-term governor convinced enough opposition voters that he was the surest bet to try to unseat Rousseff, who has presided over a long economic slump but remains popular among the poor.
With three-quarters of votes counted, Rousseff led with 40.4 per cent support compared to 35.2 per cent for Neves.
Marina Silva, a prominent environmentalist who had recently led opinion polls but saw her support collapse late in the campaign, was in third place with just 21 per cent of votes.
An exit poll broadcast by TV Globo just after polls closed showed Rousseff, who is seeking a second term, with 44 per cent of the vote, compared to 30 per cent for Neves and 22 per cent for Silva.
Results were not yet in from some poorer states in the northeast and Amazon where Rousseff is stronger, meaning her lead could widen as they come in.
Since no candidate won a majority of valid votes, the top two finishers will face each other in a second round on Oct. 26.
The matchup, which polls show Rousseff is favoured to win, will pit her emphasis on robust social programs and state intervention in the economy against Neves’ vision of greater trade and a more austere state.
Silva had as recently as late last week seemed like Rousseff’s probable challenger. But her campaign abruptly fell apart under a barrage of negative ads that accused her of flip-flopping on issues like taxes and gay marriage.
That provided Neves, the grandson of a beloved politician from the 1980s, a window to present himself as a more steady alternative.
His centrist Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB) governed Brazil from 1995 to 2002, a period that saw important pro-market reforms that ended decades of high inflation and financial instability.
(Additional reporting by Brazil newsroom; Editing by Todd Benson and Kieran Murray)
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