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Rousseff Overtakes Serra in Brazil Presidential Poll

June 25th, 2010

Dilma Rousseff

Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff took the lead in the country’s presidential race, according to a new poll, increasing the chances President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s chosen successor will win in the first round of voting in October.

Rousseff, Lula’s former cabinet chief, is supported by 40 percent of those surveyed, according to an Ibope poll for the National Industrial Confederation, or CNI, that was published today in Brasilia. Former Sao Paulo Governor Jose Serra, of the opposition Social Democracy Party, had 35 percent. The nationwide poll of 2,002 people was taken June 19 to June 21 and has a margin of error of 2 percentage points.

“It’s becoming more and more likely that Rousseff will be elected in the first round,” said Rafael Cortez, a political analyst at Sao Paulo-based Tendencias Consultoria Integrada. “Little by little the electorate is realizing that Rousseff is supported by Lula. That reinforces her favoritism.”

Today was the first time Rousseff, 62, surpassed Serra in a CNI/Ibope poll. In March, the Workers’ Party candidate trailed with 33 percent to Serra’s 38 percent. Green Party candidate Marina Silva, a former environment minister in Lula’s government, had 9 percent compared with 8 percent in March.

If no candidate wins a majority in the first round of voting Oct. 3, the top two finishers will compete in a runoff four weeks later. Rousseff is favored to beat Serra 45 percent to 38 percent in a second-round scenario, according to the poll.

Preferred Successor

Rousseff has been rising in the polls as voters come to identify her as the president’s preferred successor. According to Ibope, 73 percent of those surveyed in June recognized her as Lula’s candidate compared with 58 percent in March.

Lula, 64, is barred by the constitution from running for a third consecutive term. His approval rating in today’s poll rose to a record 85 percent from 83 percent in March.

Rousseff has a 70 percent change of winning the election, Christopher Garman, the Eurasia Group’s director for Latin America, wrote in a May 18 report.

Serra, 68, served as health minister when his party last held the presidency, from 1995 through 2002, under Fernando Henrique Cardoso. The former governor of Brazil’s most populous and richest state lost a presidential runoff in October 2002 with 39 percent of the vote to Lula’s 61 percent.

Serra, in June 21 television interview, criticized Brazil’s central bank for waiting too long to cut interest rates following the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. in September 2008.

Rousseff has pledged to maintain Lula’s current support for the bank’s operational autonomy and make the bank chief a member of her cabinet if elected, as current president Henrique Meirelles is.

–With assistance from Andre Soliani in Brasilia. Editors: Joshua Goodman, Brendan Walsh

To contact the reporter on this story: Iuri Dantas in Brasilia at; Maria Luiza Rabello in Brasilia at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Joshua Goodman at

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