Brazil`s Rousseff poised to take presidency

The hand-picked candidate of Brazil`s hugely popular president was poised to replace him as leader of Latin America`s biggest nation as voters began casting ballots on Sunday in a runoff election.

Last Updated: Oct 31, 2010, 21:10 PM IST

Sao Paulo(Brazil): The hand-picked candidate
of Brazil`s hugely popular president was poised to replace him
as leader of Latin America`s biggest nation as voters began
casting ballots on Sunday in a runoff election.

Dilma Rousseff, a 62-year-old former Marxist guerrilla
and career bureaucrat who long ago left behind her rebel ways,
held a comfortable lead in opinion polls and was bolstered by
the support of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, her
political mentor, in the contest with centrist Jose Serra.

The winner will lead a nation that will host the 2014
World Cup and is expected to be the globe`s fifth-largest
economy by the time it hosts the 2016 Summer Olympics.

Just hours before polls were to open, Rousseff paid
tribute to Silva and assured Brazilians that while he would
not have an official role in her government, he would always
be near.

"President Lula, obviously, won`t be a presence within my
Cabinet. But I will always talk with the president and I will
have a very close and strong relationship with him," Rousseff
said at a final campaign stop in her hometown of Belo
Horizonte. "Nobody in this country will separate me from
President Lula."

Silva, after two four-year terms, is barred by Brazil`s
constitution from running for a third. He maintains an
80-percent approval rating and has a rabid following among the
nation`s poor, who view the former shoeshine boy who came from
an impoverished family as one of their own. Silva`s generous
social programmes have helped pull 20 million people out of
poverty and thrust another 29 million into the middle class
since he took office in 2003.

Rousseff, who would be Brazil`s first female president,
pledged to continue Silva`s work.

"I want to unite Brazil around a project not just of
material development, but also of values," she told supporters
at the rally.

"When we win an election, we must govern for all
Brazilians without exception."

Early today, Rousseff cast her vote in southern Brazil,
where she is registered, flashed a victory sign and big smile
to photographers and left without making a statement.

Serra, a 68-year-old former governor of Sao Paulo state
and one-time national health minister who was badly beaten by
Silva in the 2002 presidential election, said the election was
far from over and criticised what he said would be Rousseff`s
heavy reliance on Silva to help rule.

"We know that nobody can govern in the place of another,"
Serra said in a final campaign stop, also in Belo Horizonte.
"Whoever is elected has to govern. The outsourcing of a
government does not exist."

PTI