Rousseff Gains Edge as Brazil Polls Point to Photo Finish

Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff gained support over opposition candidate Aecio Neves even as the race remains in a dead heat less than a week before the runoff, according to a Datafolha poll published yesterday.

Rousseff has 46 percent support and Neves has 43 percent, according to the Datafolha poll taken yesterday and released on Globo TV. In the last Datafolha poll published Oct. 15, Rousseff had 43 percent to 45 percent for Neves. Rousseff of the Workers’ Party won 42 percent in Oct. 5 first-round vote, compared to 34 percent for Neves of the Brazilian Social Democracy Party.

The two candidates have clashed over the economy, consumer prices and corruption as polls conducted by Ibope, MDA and Vox Populi also show them statistically tied ahead of the Oct. 26 runoff. While Neves pledges to slow inflation to target and boost growth, the incumbent says her opponent’s policies threaten record-low unemployment rates and social welfare spending. Yesterday’s poll shows Rousseff’s continued attacks on Neves are luring voters, even if those same voters would prefer to hear proposals, according to Thiago de Aragao, a partner and director of strategy at Arko Advice.

“They were influenced in the past week by Rousseff’s attacks even though the majority doesn’t want to see these attacks,” de Aragao said by telephone from Brasilia. Voters “want to see proposals, but clearly the attacks have worked, and the result is there.”

The Datafolha poll also showed Rousseff had 52 percent of the valid votes to 48 percent for Neves, compared with 49 percent to 51 percent in the Oct. 15 poll. Valid votes excluded blank and null ballots and undecided voters.

Polls, Trends

The Datafolha poll surveyed 4,389 people and has a margin of error of plus or minus two percentage points. Datafolha doesn’t conduct polls at the request of parties or politicians, according to an e-mail from its director, Mauro Paulino.

A Vox Populi poll also published yesterday showed Rousseff has 46 percent support and Neves has 43 percent, according to the Oct. 18-19 poll of 2,000 people that has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.2 percentage points. In terms of valid votes, Rousseff has 52 percent to 48 percent for Neves. Vox Populi also conducts surveys for Rousseff’s campaign, according to a press officer who can’t be named because of internal policy.

According to an MDA poll yesterday, Rousseff has 45.5 percent support and Neves 44.5 percent, according to the Oct. 18-19 poll commissioned by the National Transport Confederation that has a margin of error of 2.2 percentage points.

MDA’s clients have included the federal government and Minas Gerais, where Neves was governor, according to its website.

Markets, Issues

The Ibovespa stock index, which has surged 16 percent from a five-year low in March when support for Rousseff began to wane, fell 3.8 percent at 10:39 a.m. local time. The real weakened 1.2 percent to 2.4931 per U.S. dollar. On Oct. 2, the currency closed at 2.4949, its weakest level on a closing basis December 2008.

In a televised debate Oct. 19, the candidates traded barbs over the economy, with Neves saying growth is expected to be practically null this year and that the government had mismanaged state-run oil company Petroleo Brasileiro SA. The incumbent said her opponent’s forecast was overly pessimistic and her government has allowed a probe to proceed without interruption into alleged corruption at Petrobras.

Petrobras’s former head of refining, Paulo Roberto Costa, has said he collected bribes from suppliers who won contracts with the state-run company, and distributed part of the proceeds to political parties. Petrobras is a “victim” in the investigation and is collaborating with authorities, the company said in a statement on Oct. 9.

Brazil’s economy contracted 0.6 percent in the second quarter after shrinking a revised 0.2 percent during the first three months of the year. Analysts surveyed by the central bank on Oct. 17 estimate the world’s second-largest emerging market will grow 0.27 percent this year, which would be the worst performance since 2009.

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