Rousseff narrow favourite as Brazilians turn out to vote

Brazilians voted on Sunday for the next leader of the world's seventh-largest economy, with opinion polls narrowly favouring President Dilma Rousseff after a topsy-turvy and bitter campaign.

AFP| Updated: Oct 26, 2014, 23:14 PM IST

Rio De Janeiro: Brazilians voted on Sunday for the next leader of the world's seventh-largest economy, with opinion polls narrowly favouring President Dilma Rousseff after a topsy-turvy and bitter campaign.

Some 143 million people are choosing between leftist incumbent Rousseff and Social Democrat Aecio Neves, scion of a famous political family.

Polls gave Rousseff between a four- and six-percent lead, though the election remained too close to call.

The winner will face a declining economy in recession and rising inflation which has broken the government's own target ceiling of 6.5 per cent.

They will also have to deal with public frustration over shoddy public services and endemic corruption.

"We are voting for a more equal Brazil with more opportunities," said Rousseff, the country's first woman president, as she cast her vote in the southern city of Porto Alegre, sipping on a cup of local mate tea.

Polls opened at 1000 GMT -- although registered expatriates as far away as Australia, Japan and New Zealand were able to cast their ballots overnight.

"People are called to choose between two projects," said Rousseff, a former guerrilla once jailed and tortured by the country's 1964-1985 military regime.

"Ours is to ensure Brazil continues to grow with more health and education."

Neves, accompanied by his wife who recently gave him baby twins, meanwhile gave V for victory signs as he cast his ballot more than two hours after polls opened in Belo Horizonte, capital of Minas Gerais state which he once governed.

"Change has already begun," he tweeted optimistically.

Today's vote amid tight security was widely seen as a referendum on 12 years of government under Rousseff's Workers' Party (PT) -- eight under working-class hero Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and four under Rousseff.

Landmark social programs lifting some 40 million people from poverty have earned the PT solid working and lower middle class support, wages have risen and unemployment has fallen to a record-low 4.9 per cent.

But, even before the current recession, Rousseff, 66, faced massive protests last year against corruption, World Cup spending and poor public services.

Business world favourite Neves -- a 54-year-old senator and the grandson of the man elected Brazil's first post-dictatorship president -- says Brazil's economy is going nowhere under Rousseff, pointing to four years of low growth and rising prices.