By Sibel Tinar, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Sunday’s elections in Brazil have sent the presidential race to a run-off round of voting to be contested between Dilma Rousseff (PT, Workers’ Party) and José Serra (PSDB, Brazilian Social Democratic Party) on October 31st, who secured 46.9 percent and 32.6 percent of the votes respectively, leaving Dilma failing to secure a majority.
Opinion polls conducted in the past few weeks had indicated a slight decline in support for current president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s protégée Dilma who had been polling over fifty percent early last month, and he is set to take control of the campaign to ensure victory over Serra at the end of October.
The biggest surprise of the day, however, was Marina Silva (PV, Green Party), who secured 19.3 percent of the votes, significantly more than opinion polls indicated throughout the campaigning period and a key factor in the need for a run-off round.
Dilma led in eighteen states, including Rio de Janeiro, her home states Minas Gerais, and Rio Grande do Sul, as well as the North and North East, the poorest regions of the country where Lula is immensely popular. Serra won eight states, including his home turf São Paulo, and the Southern states of Paraná and Santa Catarina. Marina Silva only led in Distríto Federal (DF, Brasília), and with a wide margin, securing 42 percent of the votes, compared with Dilma’s 31.7 percent, and Serra’s 24.3 percent.
In Rio de Janeiro, where the differences between the figures at the city and state levels are negligible, Dilma received 43.8 percent of the valid votes, while Marina Silva followed in second with 31.5 percent, and Serra came in third with 22.5 percent.
As well as voting for the next president of the country, Brazilians also elected senators, federal and state deputies, and voted for the governors of all the states and the DF, as the gubernatorial contest is the only other race that has the run-off option. Eighteen states, including all of the South and Southeastern states, have elected their governors in the first round, and eight states, along with the DF, will hold run-off rounds between the top two candidates with the most votes to determine their next governors.
Sergio Cabral, the incumbent governor of Rio de Janeiro, was, as expected, reelected with a comfortable 66.1 percent of the votes, while his principal rival Fernando Gabeira took just 20.7 percent.
Of Brazil’s 136 million voters 101.3 (74 percent) million cast valid votes, while a considerable 24.6 million (18 percent) exercised their right of abstention, 6.1 million (five percent) voted nulo, or invalid, and 3.5 million (three percent) voted branco, or blank.
The voting started at 8AM BRT (Brasília time), and the polls remained open until 5PM in twenty of Brazil’s twenty-six states, along with the Distríto Federal (DF), and the voting period concluded completely at 6PM. PSDB chiefs and their PT rivals will now hold hastily-organized planning and strategy meetings to dictate the pace, and ultimately the outcome, of the next wave of canvassing set to sweep the country in the run up to October 31st.