Silva Loses Lead in Poll With Election Too Close to Call

Marina Silva lost her lead in a Datafolha poll that shows a runoff against President Dilma Rousseff is too close to call less than four weeks before Brazilians start voting.

Silva has 47 percent of voter support in an Oct. 26 second round and Rousseff 43 percent, according to the poll published last night in Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper. The difference of four percentage points falls within the margin of error of plus or minus two percentage points. The runoff results for this poll compare to 48 percent for Silva and 41 percent for the incumbent in the Datafolha poll conducted Sept. 1-3.

Rousseff’s campaign in the past two weeks has stepped up attacks against Silva, saying the former environment minister doesn’t have the experience or support in Congress to lead and that her pledge to grant central bank autonomy threatens jobs. Silva has criticized the incumbent’s handling of the economy, which fell into recession in the first half of this year.

The poll “is definitely a warning signal that Marina needs to counter these attacks,” Joao Augusto de Castro Neves, Latin America analyst at political risk consulting firm Eurasia Group, said by phone last night. “This process of Dilma going up and Marina going down is going to be slow. Next week maybe you’ll have a real tie between the two.”

First Round

Rousseff has 36 percent support in the first round compared to 35 percent in the previous poll while Silva polled 33 percent from 34 percent last week. Senator Aecio Neves is running third with 15 percent support. Datafolha surveyed 10,568 people for the poll.

No candidate has enough support in the poll to avoid a runoff, which occurs when the leader in the Oct. 5 first round fails to garner more votes than all other candidates combined.

This is the first Datafolha poll conducted since Veja magazine reported over the weekend that a group of politicians, including Rousseff allies, allegedly received bribes linked to contracts for state-controlled oil company Petroleo Brasileiro SA. The report also said Eduardo Campos, who was Silva’s running mate before he died Aug. 13, allegedly was involved in the scheme.

The government’s approval rating was unchanged from last week, with 36 percent saying it’s doing a great or good job and 38 percent saying the administration’s performance is normal, according to Datafolha.

“Without credibility there is no investment, without investment the country doesn’t grow, without growth the country begins a process of recession like the one we just entered,” Silva said today to O Globo newspaper.

Better Growth

Silva became the candidate for the Brazilian Socialist Party on Aug. 20 after Campos’s death in a plane crash. Her campaign pledges to cut the inflation rate by more than half while boosting economic growth and curtailing the power of political parties.

Barclays today changed its base-case scenario to Silva beating Rousseff in the election based on weak economic performance and the Petrobras corruption scandal, economists including Marcelo Salomon said in a note today. Her economic program could prompt better growth to kick in during 2016, they said.

Gross domestic product has contracted in three of the past four quarters while inflation twice this year breached the central bank target range of 2.5 percent to 6.5 percent. Rousseff says consumer price increases will moderate and that her policies have kept unemployment at record lows. She said this week that she would replace Finance Minister Guido Mantega should she win a second term.

The Ibovespa rose 0.4 percent today at 12:30 p.m. local time after leading losses yesterday among major stock benchmarks in the Americas on speculation that Rousseff’s odds of winning the election are increasing, falling 0.8 percent. Since she took office in January 2011, the Sao Paulo stock exchange index has declined 16 percent.

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