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By Anthony Boadle
BRASILIA May 22 President Dilma Rousseff's main
rivals have cut her lead ahead of Brazil's elections in October,
though she is still favored to win re-election if the race goes
to a second round, according to a poll published on Thursday.
As the campaign shifts gears and undecided voters begin to
pick candidates, Rousseff's opponents have gained more traction
than the president from growing media exposure, making a run-off
Hurt by high inflation and a scandal involving state-run oil
company Petroleo Brasileiro SA, left-of-center
Rousseff has managed to stem a decline in popularity with steps
such as an increase in poverty relief on May 1.
Voter support for Rousseff recovered to 40 percent in May
from 37 percent in a previous poll in April, the local IBOPE
polling firm said.
"The poll shows that Rousseff's hemorrhaging in April has
stabilized," said Joao Augusto Castro Neves, a political analyst
with the Eurasia consultancy in Washington.
But her main rival, Aécio Neves of the centrist PSDB party,
rose to 20 percent from 14 percent in April, while Eduardo
Campos, the candidate of the Brazilian Socialist Party, advanced
to 11 percent from 6 percent the month before.
Added together, Neves, Campos and other possible candidates
now have 36 percent of eligible votes, reducing the gap with
Rousseff to just four percentage points, from 13 points a month
earlier. Rousseff needs to win more votes than all other
candidates put together to avoid a run-off.
Neves and Campos have reduced their negatives, but Rousseff
has not, with 33 percent of voters still rejecting her.
The election campaign heated up last week with a combative
video by Rousseff's ruling Workers' Party that focused on how
life had improved for Brazil's poor since it came to power in
2002, warning voters those gains could be lost.
While campaigning will not start officially until after the
soccer World Cup ends in mid-July, little-known opposition
candidates have gained ground by stepping up public appearances
and media interviews.
Undecided voters have dropped to 10 percent from 13 percent
a month earlier, and the number of people who said they would
not vote on Oct. 5 has fallen from 24 percent to 14 percent, the
IBOPE poll said.
"Voters are beginning to pay more attention to the election
and preferences are starting to consolidate," said Castro Neves.
"We think there will be a second round and we continue to view
her as the favorite to win it, though by a smaller margin."
The poll, published by Globo TV News and O Estado de S.Paulo
newspaper, interviewed 2,002 eligible voters between May 15 and
19 and has a margin of error of plus/minus 2 percentage points.
(Reporting by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and