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Rising Rousseff ramps up Brazil election offensive

30 september 2014, 11:17
0
Brazilian President and candidate for the Workers' Party Dilma Rousseff arrives to take part television debate in Sao Paulo. ©AFP
Brazilian President and candidate for the Workers' Party Dilma Rousseff arrives to take part television debate in Sao Paulo. ©AFP

 President Dilma Rousseff -- buoyed by improved poll numbers -- has ramped up her offensive as Brazil's election campaign enters the final stretch, with a decisive first-round win in her sights, AFP reports.

Rousseff came out fighting late Sunday against her main rival, environmentalist Marina Silva, in the next-to-last debate before Sunday's first round of voting.

The leftist incumbent -- Brazil's first woman president -- hit out at Silva for flip-flopping, citing her repeated party shifts, from Rousseff's own Workers Party (PT) to the Greens and eventually the Socialists.

"You have changed party four times in three years. Governing requires firmness and courage, along with adopting clear positions," Rousseff said as she appealed to some 20 percent of the electorate that is still undecided.

Rousseff is looking to avoid an October 26 run-off, in which Silva -- likely to pick up votes from those supporting minor candidates in the first round -- is tipped to do well.

In the latest opinion polls, Rousseff is chipping away at Silva's lead.

A survey from Datafolha released Friday showed Rousseff 13 points ahead in the first round -- but still in a technical dead heat with Silva in an eventual run-off.

With one in three voters still saying they will definitely not back her, Rousseff has every interest in securing a knockout win in the first round by obtaining more votes than her rivals combined.

  Rousseff's 'humble' pitch 

A total of 142.8 million voters will cast ballots next Sunday to decide the next leader of the huge South American nation, the world's seventh-biggest economy.

The 66-year-old Rousseff, handpicked by charismatic predecessor Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, had been expected to win a second mandate until Silva crashed the party.

Silva, a former environment minister and an evangelist who would become Brazil's first black leader, became the Socialist Party candidate only after the August death in an air crash of Eduardo Campos, her former running mate.

In Sunday's debate, Rousseff presented herself as a more experienced and reliable candidate, launching a "humble" appeal for voter support.

Silva -- who left the government in 2008 after five years -- meanwhile says she represents a "new politics" in a country where voters are weary of party politicking.

In Sunday's debate, she accused Rousseff of presiding over soaring crime and neglecting green issues.

The pair also disagreed on financing for major projects from publicly owned banks.

Silva enjoyed a month-long poll honeymoon upon entering the fray, but last week's Datafolha poll gave Rousseff a 13 percent first round lead and put her ahead in second round voter intentions for the first time.

Social democrat Aecio Neves -- trailing Silva by nine points, and with seemingly little hope of dislodging her from second place -- used his airtime to attack the government over an alleged kickbacks scandal surrounding state-owned oil giant Petrobras.

A former director of the firm has alleged that dozens of politicians -- mainly in Rousseff's PT or its coalition allies -- benefited from huge sweeteners on Petrobras deals.

Rousseff -- who chaired the Petrobras board at the time of the alleged kickbacks, but says she had no knowledge of any wrongdoing -- insisted she would not sweep corruption under the carpet.

"In all my life, I had zero tolerance for corruption," she told her rivals as Neves, whose supporters could potentially bolster Silva in a run-off, made Rousseff his target.

"I am the only candidate who has presented concrete proposals to tackle corruption," Rousseff stormed.

by Laura BONILLA CAL

 


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