On the eve of Sunday’s presidential election, national polls show Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff widening her lead over her opponents with an estimated 40% of voter support. Challenger Marina Silva hovers around 24%, a few points ahead of centrist candidate Aecio Neves.
However, Rousseff may not have the margin needed to definitively defeat her rivals – lagging ten points short of the 50% needed, the president is likely to confront one of her adversaries in a runoff. It remains to be seen whether Silva or Neves makes the cut. Viewed by many pollsters as the dark horse, Neves has seen his numbers climb even as the environmentalist’s early momentum waned. Silva has failed to maintain the ten-point lead she gained over Rousseff when she began her candidacy on the Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB) ticket, replacing Eduardo Campos, who was killed in a plane crash in mid-August.
That was a game-changer. Rousseff saw her voter support drop dramatically, from 55% to 25%, over the span of a few weeks in August as Silva mounted an anti-establishment campaign – this to the delight of financial observers frustrated with an administration viewed as anti-business. Now, however, those same observers are watching Rousseff’s numbers bounce back. According to Reuters:
Rousseff’s increased chances of winning re-election have weighed down Brazil’s markets where investors are hoping for a change of government. Some blame Rousseff’s interventionist policies for the stagnation of Latin America’s largest economy.
Nonetheless, the president has managed to rebound from a disastrous year, which included mass street protests, economic recession, the humiliating defeat of the Brazilian team at the World Cup, and assaults from both Silva and Neves. In the final countdown to Sunday’s election, pollsters are predicting that Rousseff will win the presidential runoff with a seven point lead. Here, it’s worth noting that despite Rousseff’s failures, her first term in office has seen notable progress, lifting tens of millions from Brazil’s poorest social strata to the middle class thanks to a rise in the GDP per person growth rate, reduced poverty levels, and low joblessness. (Unemployment rates in 2014 fell to around 5%, compared to 12% a decade ago). The result: vast support among Brazil’s poorest classes, 46% of whom plan to vote for Rousseff, compared to 24% for Silva, in Sunday’s election.
So while Rousseff’s policies may seem bad for business, they are still viewed by many voters as good for the common man. Indeed, the president is counting on support from Brazil’s poorest – who represent a quarter of the electorate — to clinch her re-election. Barring an upset this Sunday, Rousseff is primed to keep her presidential seat.