Brazil, similar to its neighbours Chile and Argentina, may soon make history by electing its first ever female President, Dilma Rousseff (62). But not yet.

After Sunday’s vote Ms. Rousseff, the popular Chief of Staff of former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, faltered a few steps short of the throne, when she found herself holding nearly 47 per cent of the vote but was still shy of the 50 per cent-level required to avoid an October 31 runoff election.

Ms. Rousseff is a candidate of the Workers Party and an economist. She was associated with militant groups fighting against the 1960s dictatorship in the country. She was also jailed for three years during the 1970s and has claimed that she was she was tortured during her incarceration.

With the counting of votes complete on Monday, it became clear that Ms. Rousseff's strongest rival, São Paulo Governor José Serra, had struck a deadlier blow than many had anticipated. He garnered close to 33 per cent of the vote.

The third candidate in the fray, Marina Silva, is Mr. da Silva’s Minister for the Environment and a Green Party candidate. Ms. Silva is on track to be the queen- or king-maker as the case may be, after she scooped up close to 19 per cent of the vote.

Observers noted that the final outcome after the runoff vote would depend significantly on whether Ms. Silva made a public endorsement of one of the two other candidates.

While neither Ms. Rousseff nor Mr. Serra have proposed policies that would destabilise the course of Brazil’s rapid economic growth in recent years, their politics on subjects such as fiscal discipline and state intervention are in stark contrast. According to analysts, Ms. Rousseff would be more likely to favour greater state control over the economy, whereas Mr. Serra would likely focus on cutting public expenditure.

Shortly after the counting of votes, Ms. Rouseff was quoted as having said to media in Brasilia, “I will confront the second round with a lot of drive and energy... I will have the opportunity to provide more details about my proposals to eradicate misery and ensure the country's development with fast levels of growth."

Most analysts agreed that Ms. Rousseff would retain her position as the strongest candidate in the runoff as well. Her popularity stems in part from her association with Mr. da Silva, who was himself unable to contest a third term due to a constitutional rule forbidding it. Exiting office, however, he enjoyed a whopping 80 per cent popularity rating.

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