BRASILIA, Sept 8 President Luiz Inacio Lula da
Silva's chosen candidate in Brazil's presidential election next
year lost ground among voters, while the opposition's Jose
Serra kept most of his wide lead, a poll showed on Tuesday.
Lula's chief of staff, Dilma Rousseff, garnered 19 percent
of voter intentions, down from 23.5 percent in May, according
to the Sensus poll.
Sao Paulo State Governor Serra, who lost to Lula in 2002's
presidential race, saw his support fall less than 1 percentage
point to 39.5 percent.
Rousseff's fall in the polls follows word from Lula's
former environment minister Marina Silva that she may run for
president. Analysts say Silva could draw women and leftist
supporters from Rousseff, splitting the pro-government vote.
Silva, an internationally renowned defender of the Amazon
rain forest, took 4.8 percent of voter intentions in the poll.
But Ricardo Guedes, director of Sensus, said backing for
Rousseff fell mostly because an ongoing Senate ethics scandal
involving a key Lula ally had rubbed off on her and the
government. Lula and Rousseff were seen by some as defending
the embattled Senate chief against accusations of fraud and
"Dilma may have lost a little (to Silva) but nothing
significant. Her fall is due more to political factors," Guedes
told a news conference.
The government also lost support for its handling of the
H1N1 flu, the poll showed. The number of deaths from the flu
rose to 657, the highest number in any country, the health
ministry said last week.
By law, Lula cannot run for a third consecutive term in the
October 2010 election, making it the first time in two decades
he will not bid for the country's top job.
The hugely popular former union leader has spent much
political capital to promote Rousseff's candidacy, ignoring
opposition to her bid from allies and some members of his own
ruling Workers' Party.
Lula's approval rating has fallen nearly 5 percentage
points since May but at 76.8 percent remains near the highest
levels of his nearly seven years in office.
The survey polled 2,000 people from Aug. 31 to Sept. 4 and
has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
(Reporting by Fernando Exman; Writing by Raymond Colitt;
Editing by Eric Walsh)