Rousseff, Neves Neck&Neck Ahead of Brazil Runoff

Rousseff, Neves Neck&Neck  Ahead of Brazil RunoffRousseff, Neves Neck&Neck  Ahead of Brazil Runoff

Pro-business opposition candidate Aecio Neves has gained support and is running neck-and-neck with leftist President Dilma Rousseff ahead of Brazil’s Oct. 26 presidential runoff, two polls showed on Thursday.

The tight race highlights why Neves is actively seeking an endorsement from popular environmentalist Marina Silva, who finished third in the election’s first round on Sunday with 22 million votes.

Neves has 46 percent support against 44 percent for Rousseff, surveys by the Datafolha and Ibope polling firms showed. Excluding undecided voters, spoiled and blank survey responses, Neves had 51 percent against 49 percent for Rousseff, according to Reuters.

The gap between them is statistically insignificant because it is within the margin of error of both polls, meaning the race remains too close to call at this point.

The polls were the first by Brazil’s two major polling firms since Sunday’s first-round vote in which Rousseff won 41.6 percent of the votes cast to 33.6 percent for Neves, a difference of 8 million votes.

Neves, a centrist senator who is an investor favorite, had trailed Silva for most of the campaign but surged late to secure a spot in the runoff. Brazilian financial markets rallied early in the week after Neves’s strong showing, hoping that his momentum heading into the second round would give him a solid lead over Rousseff.

To unseat Rousseff and put an end to 12 years of Workers’ Party rule, Neves is trying to woo voters who backed Silva and other opposition candidates in the first round.

Silva’s Brazilian Socialist Party backed Neves on Wednesday, but she wants to see him formally embrace some key points from her campaign platform before offering a personal endorsement.

A Silva aide, Pedro Ivo, said she is seeking “progressive” commitments to defend the rights of Brazilian Indians and landless peasants, issues that are not part of Neves’s platform. She also wants Neves to commit to “sustainable development,” a key concept of her campaign.

Silva also came in third in the last presidential election, when she ran on the Green Party ticket. In the 2010 runoff, she remained neutral instead of endorsing a candidate. This time, though, Silva looks inclined to throw her weight behind Neves following an acrimonious campaign in which the Rousseff camp ran a flurry of attack ads portraying Silva as a serial flip-flopper beholden to a greedy financial elite.