October 4, 2010 / 12:32 AM / 10 years ago

Rousseff favored in Brazil runoff

Brazilian presidential candidate for the PSDB party Jose Serra (C) talks to his supporters after the results of the exit polls in Sao Paulo October 3, 2010. REUTERS/Nacho Doce

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Ruling party candidate Dilma Rousseff must win over voters concerned about her abortion views and corruption in her inner circle but remains the clear favourite to win an October 31 runoff election and become Brazil’s next president.

Rousseff and her supporters were disappointed after she got 46.9 percent of the votes in Sunday’s presidential election, short of the majority needed to avoid a second round against opposition candidate Jose Serra, who took 32.6 percent.

Rousseff was meeting with top advisers on Monday to figure out how to address long-standing questions about her lack of charisma and executive experience — as well as relatively new ones about her religious faith and stance on social issues that caused her support to slip in the past two weeks.

She and Serra are scrambling to gain the support of Green Party candidate Marina Silva, who placed a surprisingly strong third with 19.3 percent after siphoning away many votes from Rousseff at the last minute.

The Green Party will hold a convention in the coming days to decide which of the two candidates it will support in the runoff, Alfredo Sirkis, a party director told Reuters.

“We understand the anxiety of both candidates. The fact is that it will be a process of 15 days,” he said.

Rousseff, 62, still has by far the biggest asset in the campaign: the support of wildly popular President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. Lula handpicked his former chief of staff to continue the stable economic management that has made Brazil a darling of foreign investors and lifted millions of people from poverty.

Opinion polls conducted before Sunday’s vote projected that Rousseff would win a runoff over Serra by as many as 20 percentage points. Lula has promised to crisscross the country during the next four weeks to campaign for her.

Editing by Terry Wade and Eric Beech

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