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Brazil's Rousseff favorite to be first female president

SAO PAULO — A former Marxist guerrilla chosen by Brazil's beloved leader to succeed him will face a centrist rival in a presidential runoff after narrowly failing to get enough votes to win Sunday's election outright.

Dilma Rousseff, a 62-year-old career bureaucrat trying to become Brazil's first female president on the ruling Workers Party ticket, captured 46.8 percent of the vote but needed 50 percent to win in the first round of balloting.

Former Sao Paulo state governor Jose Serra got 32.6 percent support, while Green Party candidate Marina Silva got a surprising 19.4 percent, likely spoiling the center-left Rousseff's chance of a first-round win by siphoning off votes. The results came with 99.6 percent of the votes counted, according to Brazil's Supreme Electoral Court.

The runoff election Oct. 31 will pit Serra against Rousseff, who analysts say will be the heavy favorite, though a series of recent scandals could hurt the ruling party candidate.

"A second round is a whole new ball game. Everything starts from zero," said Alexandre Barros, with the Early Warning political risk group in Brasilia. "I would say Dilma has a strong chance of winning a second round. But it will all depend on what new facts emerge during the campaign."

Rousseff is the personal choice of outgoing President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, universally known as Lula, who led Brazil to unparalleled economic growth, increased the nation's political clout on the global stage, and leaves office with 80 percent approval ratings.

Rousseff has left behind her radical rebel youth and pledged to stick to the pragmatic market-friendly policy charted by Silva that have lifted millions out of poverty.

Serra is a 68-year-old from the Brazilian Social Democracy Party and former mayor and governor of Sao Paulo who was badly defeated by Silva in the 2002 election. He, too, has promised to continue the policies of Silva.

In other elections

• Hungary's governing center-right Fidesz party scored a sweeping victory in nationwide municipal elections Sunday. After gaining a two-thirds majority in April's parliamentary elections, Prime Minister Viktor Orban's party strengthened its mandate by winning the mayorships in 22 of Hungary's 23 main cities, the National Election Office said.

• Spain's beleaguered prime minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, suffered an embarrassing setback in a local election as his hand-picked candidate to be the Socialist contender in next year's race for the presidency of the Madrid regional government, Trinidad Jimenez, lost a primary election to rebel candidate Tomas Gomez, who Zapatero had asked not to run.

Brazil's Rousseff favorite to be first female president 10/04/10 [Last modified: Monday, October 4, 2010 12:28am]
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