World

Brazil's presidential hopefuls face runoff

Official vote returns indicate Brazil's leading presidential candidate, Dilma Rousseff, has been forced into a second-round runoff in October.
A combination photo shows Brazilian presidential candidates Dilma Rousseff, left, and Jose Serra after they voted on Sunday. ((Edison Vara/Nacho Doce/Reuters))

Official vote returns indicate Brazil's leading presidential candidate, Dilma Rousseff, has been forced into a second-round runoff in October.

With 99.6 per cent of the ballots tallied, she has 46.8 per cent of valid votes compared with 32.6 per cent for her closest rival, Jose Serra, The Associated Press reported, citing the Supreme Electoral Tribunal. 

Rousseff would need 50 per cent plus one of the valid votes to avoid a runoff on Oct. 31.

The popular and successful President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, known as Lula, is stepping down after serving two consecutive terms, the most allowed under the country's constitution.

Rousseff — who is Lula's former chief of staff and hand-picked successor — was widely expected to win the election. She represents the ruling Workers Party and is a former left-wing dissident who was jailed by Brazil's military regime for two years in the early 1970s.

"We are used to challenges. Traditionally, we have fared well in the second round," Rousseff, 62, 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." 

Serra had yet to make a statement late Sunday.

Opinion polls conducted before the vote showed Rousseff with a lead of about 20 percentage points over Serra, a 68-year-old centrist from the Brazilian Social Democracy Party, who was heavily defeated by Lula in the 2002 election.

Despite the poll results, Serra has expressed confidence that he would make it to a second round of voting for another four weeks of campaigning during which voters could examine the candidates more closely.

"On Monday, it all begins again," he said, while campaigning in Sao Paulo on Saturday. "We are going to a second-round vote for the good of the country."

About 135 million voters also cast ballots Sunday for governors, mayors and state and federal houses of Congress.

With files from The Associated Press

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