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Brazil election forced into run-off

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Presidential candidate Dilma Rousseff has been forced into a second-round run-off with Jose Serra, of the Brazilian Social Democratic party (AP)

Presidential candidate Dilma Rousseff has been forced into a second-round run-off with Jose Serra, of the Brazilian Social Democratic party (AP)

Presidential candidate Dilma Rousseff has been forced into a second-round run-off with Jose Serra, of the Brazilian Social Democratic party (AP)

The Brazilian presidential elections will go into a second round run-off after ruling-party candidate Dilma Rousseff, who is trying to become Brazil's first female leader, fell short of receiving a majority of votes over rival Jose Serra.

Ms Rousseff - the hand-chosen successor of popular President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva - outpaced Jose Serra 46.9 per cent to 32.6 per cent in Sunday's vote, but didn't get the 50 per cent she needed to win outright. Analysts were split on whether there was enough campaign time left for the underdog opposition candidate to close the gap.

Much depends on the other female candidate, the Green Party's Marina Silva, who won a surprising 19.4 per cent of the vote. She said her party's leadership would decide whether to throw their support behind Ms Rousseff or Mr Serra, though she emphasised it was up to individual voters to make their own choices.

Ms Rousseff, a former Marxist militant who was imprisoned for three years and tortured under Brazil's military dictatorship, has established a career as a pragmatic bureaucrat, most recently serving as President Silva's chief of staff.

Much of Brazil's electorate barely knew who Ms Rousseff was just a few months ago, but her popularity dramatically increased after it became clear she was Mr Silva's candidate when campaigning began in July. The president enjoys approval ratings of around 80 per cent and he has transferred much of that popularity to Ms Rousseff.

Mr Silva, who is legally barred from seeking a third term, was also forced into second-round votes in his 2002 and 2006 presidential victories, a fact Ms Rousseff alluded to following Sunday's election.

"We are used to challenges. Traditionally, we have fared well in the second round," Ms Rousseff told supporters in Brasilia. "I'm confident that the second round will provide an important process of elucidation, of dialogue with the representatives of society."

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Mr Serra exuberantly met supporters in the early morning hours Monday, saying that his Brazilian Social Democracy Party was "going to march to victory" in the October 31 run-off vote and retake the presidency for the first time since Fernando Henrique Cardoso's 1994-2002 administrations.

"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."

Mr Serra, 68, is a former mayor and governor of Sao Paulo who was badly defeated by Mr Silva in the 2002 election. He, too, has promised to continue the policies of Mr Silva.


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