Silva and Neves Are Tied for Runoff Spot Against Rousseff

The race for a spot in a runoff election is too close to call as a Datafolha poll shows Brazilian presidential candidates Marina Silva and Aecio Neves in a statistical tie in first-round voting.

Silva has 24 percent support in the Oct. 5 election and Neves 21 percent, according to the Oct. 1-2 poll published in Folha de S. Paulo newspaper today that has a margin of error of plus or minus two percentage points. Silva had an advantage of five percentage points over Neves in the previous poll, conducted Sept. 29-30. President Dilma Rousseff’s lead was unchanged at 40 percent, which wouldn’t give her the majority of votes needed to avert an Oct. 26 runoff.

Silva, who became a candidate 43 days ago after the death of her running mate, Eduardo Campos, initially surged in polls as she captured support from voters disillusioned with slower growth, government corruption and accelerating inflation. She is now losing backers as she fails to deflect criticism from challengers that she lacks the experience and political support to lead. An Ibope poll also published today shows Silva losing support and Neves gaining since last month.

“Aecio appeared to be dead two weeks ago, but he’s back in the game,” Andre Cesar, director of public policy and business strategy at consulting company Prospectiva, said by telephone from Brasilia before today’s polls were published. “When Marina became a viable candidate, she scared Dilma and Aecio. The process of de-constructing Marina has met its objective.”

Second Round

Support for Silva could fall even further, Cesar said, given her relatively meager campaign cash and party structure.

Rousseff would win a second round with 48 percent of votes against 41 percent for Silva, according to Datafolha, which interviewed 12,022 people. Rousseff would beat Neves by the same margin in a runoff, the poll shows.

Rousseff has 40 percent of votes in the first round, followed by 24 percent for Silva and 19 percent for Neves, according to the Ibope survey of 3,010 that has a margin of error of plus or minus two percentage points. Conducted from Sept. 29 to Oct. 1, the poll published on Globo TV for the first time shows Rousseff winning a second round against Silva, with 43 percent versus 36 percent for her opponent.

Silva, who’s running on the Brazilian Socialist Party ticket, presented herself as a third-way candidate challenging Rousseff’s Workers’ Party and Neves’s Brazilian Social Democracy Party, which have alternated in the presidency for the past two decades. With the smallest congressional base of the three, Silva said she would tap the best people from all political parties to govern the world’s biggest emerging market after China.

‘Party Support’

Her coalition has 36 members of Congress, versus 391 in Rousseff’s alliance and 142 in Neves’s, according to Eurasia Group. Because free time allotted to candidates on television is based on congressional representation, Silva has about about half the airtime of Neves. Rousseff has more than double Neves’s time.

“You cannot campaign without a certain level of professionalism, TV time and party support,” said Cesar Zucco, professor of public administration at the Getulio Vargas Foundation. “The surprise is not that she is falling but that she rose so fast.”

Silva’s campaign press office didn’t return phone calls requesting comment on her fall in polls. Rousseff’s and Neves’s campaign press offices declined to comment on their strategy and voter support.

Wealthier Brazilians

To win voters from Neves, whose support according to polls is stronger among wealthier Brazilians, Silva pledged to adopt economic policies friendly to businesses and investors. She said she would slow inflation, grant central bank autonomy and undo fiscal policies that led to a sovereign credit downgrade.

Rousseff responded by saying her opponent would push Brazil into a recession. In a TV advertisement the president’s campaign began airing last month, a family grimaces as their dinner vanishes from the table as a result of economic policies proposed by Silva.

To appeal to poorer Brazilians, Silva has relied on her personal history: she was a maid and a rubber tapper in the Amazon jungle who faced hunger and only learned to read and write at 16. She also vowed to keep in place social policies implemented by the Workers’ Party in the past 12 years and reminded voters she belonged to Rousseff’s party until 2009.

Executive Office

That gave Neves the opportunity to say Silva and Rousseff were “two sides of the same coin.” Neves, a former governor of Minas Gerais, also said Silva wasn’t prepared to preside over Brazil because she never held an elected executive office, such as mayor or governor.

Silva has also lost support by wavering on some of her proposals, said David Fleischer, a professor of politics at the University of Brasilia.

Hollywood actor Mark Ruffalo, best known for his role as the Hulk, withdrew backing for Silva this week after he learned the evangelical candidate had backtracked on full legal support for gay marriage. In an earlier video endorsing Silva, Ruffalo said he identified with her views of a development model that integrated economic, environmental and social justice.

Silva removed a passage in her government platform that supported a constitutional amendment guaranteeing gay marriage. Her party said the passage had been included by mistake in the editing process. The about-face followed criticism of the proposal by leaders of evangelical churches. Silva is a member of the Assembly of God.

“Governing Brazil requires firmness, courage, clear positions and firm attitudes,” Rousseff said during a Sept. 28 presidential debate. “There is no room for improvisations.”

While Silva still has a better chance of reaching the second round than Neves, the situation can change, said Rafael Cortez, a political analyst at consulting firm Tendencias.

“It’s very open and the scenario can be reversed,” Cortez said by phone. “It’s a very intense competition between those two.”

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