Dilma Rousseff the woman handpicked by Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva to be his successor in the presidency, is pulling ahead in the presidential run-off as the focus of the campaign shifts away from controversial social issues and back to the economic gains of recent years.
Rousseff extended her lead over opposition challenger José Serra to 10 percentage points in the latest opinion poll released on Friday. It was the third poll this week to show her gaining ground after a rough few weeks in which a re-energized Serra narrowed the gap.
The survey by DataFolha shows Rousseff with 50% of voter support versus 40% for Serra, according to the online edition of Folha de S. Paulo newspaper, which commissioned the poll.
The DataFolha poll, which has a margin for error of 2 percentage points either way, surveyed 4,037 people.
Rousseff, backed by the immensely popular president Lula, had 47% in the last DataFolha poll on October 15 versus 41% for Serra, the former São Paulo state governor from the Brazilian Social Democracy Party.
Rousseff, a 62-year-old career civil servant who has never before run for office, fell just short of winning the election outright in the first round on October 3. That was in large part because of an unexpectedly strong showing by Green Party candidate Marina Silva, who took 19% of the vote.
However the tide seemed to shift back in Rousseff’s favor after the Green Party decided not to back a candidate in the runoff, quashing Serra’s hopes for an endorsement that would help him pick up swing voters who flocked to Silva in the first round.
Lula choice has also made some progress at shifting the campaign from controversial issues as abortion, corruption and her own sexuality, back to her central message – that she is the best candidate to continue the president’s mix of market-friendly policies and social programs.
These programs have lifted more than 20 million people out of poverty since 2003 and made Brazil one of the world’s fastest-growing emerging economies.
Dilma, who served as energy minister and chief of staff in the Lula government contrary to public opinion polls forecasts that had her winning October 3, garnered 47% of the vote in the first round while Serra came away with 32.6%, forcing them into a runoff set for October 31.