September 11, 2014 / 1:18 AM / 6 years ago

Brazil poll shows Rousseff catching up with Silva in runoff

BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has recovered support and would run a tight race with opposition candidate Marina Silva if October’s election leads to a runoff vote, polls published on Wednesday showed.

A combination picture of two file photos shows Brazil's presidential candidates Marina Silva (L) of the Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB) in Sao Paulo, and Dilma Rousseff (R) of the Workers' Party (PT) in Brasilia. Current Brazilian President Rousseff has narrowed environmentalist Silva's lead in a likely second-round presidential election runoff in October to three percentage points from six points two weeks ago, a new opinion poll showed on September 9, 2014. REUTERS/Bruno Santos (L) and Ueslei Marcelino (R)

Silva, the Brazilian Socialist Party’s candidate, would have 47 percent of voter support in a second-round vote, against 43 percent for Rousseff of the governing Workers’ Party. The gap is within the margin of error of the survey by polling firm Datafolha.

Rousseff nearly halved Silva’s lead compared with a Datafolha poll last week, when the environmentalist received 48 percent support against 41 percent for the incumbent.

The latest survey by one of Brazil’s most respected pollsters confirmed that Rousseff is narrowing the gap with Silva in a runoff, which would take place on Oct. 26 if no candidate wins more than 50 percent of the ballots in the first round of voting on Oct. 5.

The tighter race comes as Rousseff makes the most of her advantage in campaign resources, running TV ads in recent weeks that attack Silva as a dangerous wild card backed by an out-of-touch financial elite.

Early on Wednesday, polling firm Vox Populi also released a forecast showing Silva and Rousseff running neck-and-neck in a potential runoff, with a 1 percentage point advantage for the challenger.

It was Vox Populi’s first poll on the October election since Silva joined the presidential race nearly a month ago following the death of her party’s previous candidate, Eduardo Campos.

Brazil’s main stock index fell as much as 2 percent in afternoon trading as news of Rousseff’s recovery disappointed investors hoping for a change after four years of sluggish economic growth under her leadership. The stock index later pared losses, closing 0.8 percent lower.

The Brazilian real traded weaker than 2.3 per dollar for the first time in more than a month.

A left-leaning economist, Rousseff advocates a central role for the government in key sectors of the economy, a view that has drawn harsh criticism from investors but which resonates with many Brazilians.

Silva, an environmental activist turned anti-corruption campaigner, has embraced market-friendly policies aimed at restoring business confidence and economic growth.

Silva wants to break with Brazil’s murky coalition politics to restore trust in government, a stance that has burnished her anti-establishment appeal in a country where polls show voters are fed up with traditional politicians.

The polls on Wednesday suggested that Rousseff has not been hurt by a new scandal that broke over the weekend involving allegations of bribery at state-run oil company Petroleo Brasileiro SA, better known as Petrobras.

That could change if more details of the scandal emerge. A congressional inquiry into activities at Petrobras has called for a hearing next week with a jailed former company executive who, according to a plea bargain leaked to local media, alleges government allies were receiving kickbacks on contracts.

In the first round of voting, Rousseff would get 36 percent of the vote, Silva 33 percent and centrist opposition candidate Aecio Neves 15 percent, according to the Datafolha poll.

Datafolha surveyed 10,568 voters on Tuesday and Wednesday and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points. The poll was commissioned by newspaper Folha de S.Paulo and media conglomerate Globo Comunicações.

The Vox Populi poll surveyed 2,000 voters on Monday and Tuesday and has a margin of error of 2.2 percentage points. The poll was commissioned by news magazine Carta Capital and published on its website.

Writing by Silvio Cascione and Anthony Boadle; Editing by Todd Benson, Lisa Von Ahn and Peter Galloway

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