Former Environment Minister Marina Silva would win Brazil’s presidency in a runoff against incumbent Dilma Rousseff, according to two polls.
Silva has 43.7 percent support, 5.9 percentage points ahead of Rousseff in an Aug. 21-24 MDA survey published today, which has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.2 percentage points. Silva has 45 percent of voters’ support in a possible Oct. 26 second round vote against President Dilma Rousseff, who garners 36 percent, according to the Aug. 23-25 Ibope poll published yesterday that surveyed 2,506 people. In both surveys Rousseff leads in the first round, and Silva places second, beating senator Aecio Neves.
Speaking in the campaign’s first televised presidential debate aired live last night, Neves and Silva said Rousseff’s policies have led to faster inflation and slower growth. The president responded by saying her policies have shielded the poor and workers from the effects of an international economic crisis.
“The Brazil that Dilma has just shown, almost in a cinematic way, doesn’t exist in peoples’ lives,” Silva said during the debate, later saying she would tap politicians from opposing parties to help her govern if elected.
The Ibovespa rose for a third consecutive day on reports Rousseff’s re-election bid is losing support. The Sao Paulo stock exchange gauge gained 1.2 percent at 11:49 a.m. local time. The real strengthened 0.1 percent to 2.2593.
In the debate, Neves showcased his experience as the former governor of Brazil’s second-most-populous state, saying in a reference to Silva that voters shouldn’t choose a president whose proposals are unclear. He said he would name former central bank President Arminio Fraga as finance minister to boost confidence of investors in the country.
Brazil needs “an economic policy that is different from the one that lead us to faster inflation and slow growth,” Neves said. “Brazil also can’t put up with new adventures, with improvisation.”
The MDA poll showed that 67.9% of respondents want a total or partial change in economic policy.
In a Datafolha poll published last week, the first to reflect Silva’s presidential candidacy, she was statistically tied in second place with Neves from the Brazilian Social Democracy Party. Rousseff had 36 percent support in the first round, 15 percentage points more than Silva.
In all three polls, Rousseff has less support in the first round than the sum of the other 10 candidates she would need to avoid a runoff.
“Aecio is the big loser,” Andre Cesar, director at public policy and business strategy consultants Prospectiva, said in a phone interview from Brasilia before the debate. “He was in second place and close to qualifying for a runoff with Dilma. Today, the game changed.”
Silva, who replaced Eduardo Campos as the Brazilian Socialist Party candidate after his death, represents an alternative to the two poles that have dominated Brazilian politics in the past two decades, Rafael Cortez, a political analyst at Sao Paulo-based research company Tendencias Consultoria Integrada, said in a telephone interview.
Rousseff’s Workers’ Party has governed the country for almost 12 years. Fernando Henrique Cardoso, from Neves’s party, was the president in the previous eight years.
“I recognize that good people exist in all parties,” Silva said in the debate. “The problem is that these people, the majority of them, are on the bench. Brazilian society that mobilized in June last year is going to pick a new squad.”
Silva’s popularity increased last year when more than 1 million Brazilians took to the streets to protest against government corruption, the rising cost of living, slower growth and government spending choices, according to Cortez. As a political outsider, she gained the protest vote, he said.
Silva’s campaign team has pledged to slow inflation to 3 percent from 6.5 percent last month by the end of 2018, support formal autonomy for the central bank and undo fiscal policies that led to a sovereign debt rating downgrade this year. On the social front, she said she would expand the government program that transfers money to poor families, known as Bolsa Familia.
Rousseff said last week that reducing the inflation target would put at risk social programs and workers, who are benefiting from a falling jobless rate.
“Brazil today has the lowest unemployment rates in history, even in the face of the biggest international crisis,” the president said during the debate.
The challenge for Silva is to persuade voters that she has the ability to lead the country, Christopher Garman, deputy head of research at Eurasia Group, wrote in a note to clients, before the debate. Garman said it’s too early to say she has become a favorite to win.
Silva cannot be considered the favorite yet because part of her rise in the polls is due to a sympathy vote stemming from Campos’s death, said Bruno Batista, the executive-director of the National Confederation of Transport, which commissioned the MDA poll.