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LATIN AMERICA

Poll shows Marina Silva is President Rousseff’s main rival in Brazil elections

Environmentalist would win 47% of vote in second round if she replaces late Socialist candidate

Environmental activist Marina Silva.
Environmental activist Marina Silva. AP

Marina Silva’s return to this year’s presidential race is changing the election landscape in Brazil. Silva may become the Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB) nominee after its candidate, Eduardo Campos, died in a plane crash last week. According to polling institute Datafolha’s first survey since the tragedy occurred, if Silva’s nomination is confirmed, she would receive 21 percent of the vote in the first round. Brazilian Social Democratic Party candidate (PSDB) Aécio Neves would receive 20 percent, while President Dilma Rousseff, who is running for re-election on her Workers’ Party (PT) ticket, would pull in 36 percent of the vote. If Silva and Rousseff were to face each other in a runoff, 43 percent of prospective voters polled said they would vote for the president while 47 percent said they would choose the former Green Party leader. Since Silva’s lead is only a matter of four points, she is technically tied with Rousseff.

Silva’s rise reflects a decision on the part of those who had not yet chosen which candidate to support

President Rousseff and Neves obtained the same results they did in last month’s polls. In July, Campos received eight percent of prospective votes, 13 points less than Silva today, though that was when she was his running mate. Her rise in the latest survey reflects a decision on the part of those who had not yet chosen a candidate to support. Thirteen percent of those polled in July said they intended to cast a blank vote. If Silva were to run, that number would drop to eight percent. The number of undecided voters has fallen from 14 percent to nine percent.

According to the survey, if Rousseff were to face Neves in a second round, she would win with 47 percent of the vote. Neves would receive 39 percent. In July, the survey suggested that a run-off between these two candidates would lead to a deadlock. Rousseff had the backing of 44 percent of prospective voters and Neves had 40 percent.

This latest Datafolha poll also revealed that public opinion about Rousseff’s administration has improved since July. Now around 38 percent say her government is functioning at an optimal or good level, up from 32 percent in July. The number of people who say her administration is bad or awful has dropped from 29 percent to 23 percent.

Pollsters interviewed 2,843 voters in 176 municipalities between August 14 and 15, just days after Campos’ death.

The emotional impact of Campos’ death may give Silva an edge that takes her to victory

That voters support Marina Silva is no surprise. In April 2014, before the parties had officially chosen their candidates, a Datafolha poll revealed that 27 percent of prospective voters would choose Silva if she were to stand for the presidency. Neves would receive 16 percent of the vote and Rousseff led with 39 percent. In March, another poll showed that Silva would pull in 23 percent of the vote.

Observers say the emotional impact of Campos’ death may give Silva an edge that takes her to victory. Antonio Campos, the lawyer and brother of the late political leader, told EL PAÍS that an internal PSB poll showed that Silva would move into a second round and defeat Rousseff.

PSB will meet next Wednesday in Brasilia to confirm Silva as its official nominee for president.

Translation: Dyane Jean François

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