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Brazil Election: Ghosts vs Monsters    10/25 08:49

   RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) -- Brazilian voters electing a new president this 
weekend are being asked to decide what scares them least: the incumbent's 
warnings about the "ghosts of the past," or her challenger's charges about the 
"monsters of the present."

   The latest polls give left-leaning incumbent Dilma Rousseff a slight edge in 
Sunday's runoff vote to lead the world's fifth-largest nation. But few people 
are counting out center-right challenger Aecio Neves after a topsy-turvy 
campaign that has been the most competitive, divisive and dramatic since 
Brazil's return to democracy in 1985.

   "The country is divided in two, with half feeling that social inclusion and 
protections are what matter most, and the other half believing that 
macroeconomic stability is more important," said Carlos Pereira, a political 
analyst at the Gertulio Vargas Foundation, Brazil's leading think tank. "The 
candidate who convinces voters he or she is best prepared to combine these two 
beliefs and make them complementary will win Sunday's election."

   The race turned dramatic after Eduardo Campos, a main opposition candidate, 
was killed when his campaign plane crashed in August. His running mate, 
renowned environmentalist Marina Silva, was thrust into his spot, and she 
immediately jumped to a double-digit lead over Rousseff and Neves.

   Silva initially tapped into the discontent over poor public services that 
millions of Brazilians expressed in anti-government protests last year, but her 
campaign never found its feet and voters drifted away from her within weeks. 
That opened the gap for Neves to stage his surprisingly strong showing in the 
Oct. 5 first-round vote, coming in second and forcing Rousseff into a runoff 
when her first-place finish didn't get an absolute majority.

   The campaigns hit fever pitch in the three weeks since, with the Workers' 
Party that's been in power for 12 years and Neves' Social Democracy Party that 
last held the presidency in 1995-2003 battling it out with no shortage of 
verbal jabs and nasty allegations.

   Rousseff attacked her rival with campaign ads asking Brazilians to remember 
the "ghosts of the past" when Neves' party ruled, with much of the nation mired 
in poverty, unemployment rife, and consumers crippled by hyperinflation. The 
incumbent has emphasized the deep social gains made under the Workers' Party, 
whose expansive social welfare programs helped yank millions out of poverty and 
into the middle class and have kept unemployment at historic lows.

   Neves urged voters to look at "monsters of the present," including an 
economy recession, inflation that's floated above the government's 6.5 percent 
target, and allegations that the Workers' Party was involved in an apparent 
decade-long, billion-dollar kickback scheme at state-run oil company Petrobras.

   The latest results from Brazil's two most respected polling groups put 
Rousseff ahead of Neves. A Datafolha survey released Thursday had Rousseff 
leading Neves 53 percent to 47 percent, with an error margin of two percentage 
points. An Ibope Institute poll put the president's lead 54-46, with the same 
error margin.

   "I'm voting for Dilma because the Workers' Party has made life easier for 
the poor. I still live in a slum, but now my home is full of nice, modern 
things --- I've got a TV, a new refrigerator and air conditioning," said Ana 
Paula Marinho, a nurse who lives in the Pavao-Pavaozinho favela that sits above 
Copacabana's ornate apartments. "We can see that we've got a better future with 
Dilma."

   But Patricia Botelha, who lives on a leafy street in Rio's wealthy Ipanema 
neighborhood, said Rousseff's poor management had led Brazil's economy to weak 
growth and all Brazilians will pay the price if the country doesn't rebound 
soon. While she voted for the Workers' Party in the last three elections, this 
year she's casting a ballot for Neves.

   "We've never seen social advances among the poor as we've witnessed during 
the last 12 years. Those are real accomplishments and we're all better off for 
it," Botelha said. "But we need new ideas on the economy, on how to keep 
growing, or those gains will be reversed no matter what policies are enacted."  


(KA)


 
 
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