31 Oct 2010

Brazil set to elect new President

Brazilian voters has started to elect a new President, with left-leaning civil servant Dilma Rousseff the favourite to take over from popular President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Dilma Rousseff, the favourite to take over from Brazilian President Lula after today's election (credit:Reuters)

Dilma Rousseff has a double-digit lead over rival Jose Serra and has vowed to keep Brazil on its path of economic prosperity. She also has President Lula‘s backing and, if she wins, will become Brazil’s first woman president.

Ms Rousseff, who, at 62 years old, has never run for office before, voted in the southern city of Porto Alegre and left the polling station surrounded by a mass of journalists and supporters who waved the ruling Workers’ Party red flag with a yellow star.

“Tomorrow we begin a new phase of democracy,” she said.

Ms Rousseff failed to win the 50 per cent of votes needed to win the election in the first round, triggering the run-off taking place today.

After voting in Sao Paulo, Serra grinned for cameras and made a V-sign with both hands as he posed for cameras with his wife. But even some of his supporters appeared ready for Rousseff to carry the day.

“I’m really disappointed with this second round and with the fact that an ally of President Lula is likely to win the election,” said Juliana Carneiro, a 32-year-old lawyer voting in the well-to-do Sao Paulo neighbourhood of Higienopolis.

Brazil has shrugged off a reputation for economic weakness under President Lula’s leadership, which mixed policies and social programs to reduced poverty and lifted millions into a bulging middle class.

Lula’s former chief of staff has benefitted from that feel-good factor, to make Rousseff the favourite.

Lula is not on the ballot for the first time in two decades but has still dominated the campaign, using all of his gruff charm to persuade voters that Rousseff is a strong manager capable of succeeding him.