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Americas

Brazil goes to the polls

media Brazil's President Lula is greeted by supporters during a campaign rally … Reuters

Polling stations have opened in Brazil as the wildly popular President Luiz Ignacio Lula da Silva makes his exit. Polls suggest the country’s 136 million voters will elect their first woman president, Lula’s own chosen successor.

Latin America’s largest country’s is closing a chapter with the departure of its wildly popular leader Lula. His own chosen candidate a 62-year-old cancer survivor Dilma Rousseff is expected to win the vote.

However, it is not clear whether Rousseff will secure 50 percent of the vote needed to be named the outright winner of Sunday’s polls. However she is well ahead of her nearest rival, former Sao Paulo state governor Jose Serra, who trails by more than 20 percent.

If Rousseff fails to secure 50 percent of the vote, the two leading candidates will face off during a run-off vote on October 31.

On Saturday, Lula bid the nation farewell in an emotional tour round his hometown Sao Bernardo do Campo on Sao Paulo’s southern outskirts in an open car. Accompanied by his successor Rousseff, he received accolades from residents with tears in his eyes.

"He is very moved because he did so much for us... He suffered what we suffered," said Cleila Santos, a 54-year-old health worker wearing the red of a Lula campaigner.

While Lula will still be in office until the end of the year, Sunday’s general elections is seen as a curtain call of sorts, especially as his anointed heir is poised to take over the support he generated himself.

Barred from seeking a third mandate, Lula will cast his ballot for Rousseff in his hometown before flying off to Brasilia to wait for election results.

Lula’s mix of maintaining fiscal stabilisation policies and extending social welfare programmes lifted millions of Brazilians out of poverty.

Though Rousseff has spent time in Lula’s cabinet, little is known about her except her promises to follow in Lula’s footsteps and maintain his policies. She is nicknamed the Iron Lady for her determination and her no-nonsense demeanour.

If elected, Rousseff will have some tough challenges ahead including two important events, the World Cup and the Olympics, which will require heavy investments.
 

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