Brazil Picks New President In A Tight Race Of Stark Contrasts

October 26, 2014

Brazilians are voting in a runoff election to select their next leader today, and it’s anyone’s guess how the divisive campaign season will end: voter polls have shown nearly a dead heat in the race’s final days. The election has come down to competing visions for the future of Latin America’s largest economy, put forth by leftist incumbent Dilma Rousseff and center-right challenger Aecio Neves.

From Sao Paulo, NPR’s Lourdes Garcia-Navarro reports:

“It’s been a bitter, bruising campaign, filled with attack ads and corruption scandals. The choice is stark. Incumbent Dilma Rousseff, whose Workers Party has been in power for 12 years, is promising to expand signature social welfare programs. Her support comes mainly from the poor, who in the past decade have seen their fortunes rise after years of an economic boom. But those boom days are over.

“Challenger Aecio Neves is the scion of a political family. A two-time governor of the rich state of Minas Gerais, he is offering more business-friendly policies to get Brazil out of recession. His support comes from the wealthier classes.

“Polls show the vote is split almost 50/50 with Rousseff in a slight lead — showing a country that is divided over its future.”

The divisions on display in Brazil’s runoff vote have been much-discussed. The Economist recently called a rally by Neves’ supporters a “cashmere revolution,” describing a rally where one attendee noted, “Most of Brazilian GDP is here.”

Both candidates have acknowledged that Brazil’s economy needs to be jolted back to life. Rousseff and Neves have discussed their plans for filling the job of finance minister, if elected.

Today’s vote will close a roller-coaster election season that included the death of one candidate, Eduardo Campos. After the 49-year-old economist was killed in a plane crash in August, his Socialist Party running-mate, Marina Silva, quickly rose as the No. 2 challenger to Rousseff, but voters in the Oct. 5 election elevated Neves into the runoff.

Voting in Brazil’s biggest states is scheduled to end at 3 p.m. ET; we’ll be reporting on the results of the race later today.

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