Opposition candidate closes in on Brazil’s Rousseff ahead of vote

SAO PAULO (Reuters) – Brazil’s main opposition party launched the candidacy of its leader Aecio Neves yesterday to challenge President Dilma Rousseff’s re-election bid in October on a platform of fiscal austerity and pro-market policies.

“Enough is enough,” Neves said in an acceptance speech at the centrist PSDB party convention. He lambasted the leftist Rousseff for squandering public money and undermining the financial stability given to Brazil by the real currency plan adopted by former PSDB president Fernando Henrique Cardoso. Neves, a senator with a successful record as governor of Brazil’s second-richest state, Minas Gerais, is chipping away at Rousseff’s lead less than four months from election day, a poll published yesterday showed.

Rousseff dropped to 32.2 per cent this month from 34 per cent in a previous poll in April, while Neves climbed to 21.5 per cent from 19.9 per cent, the polling firm Sensus said.

The poll confirmed the results of other recent surveys that predict Rousseff, whose popularity has been dragged down by economic uncertainty and a high cost of living, will not win enough votes on Oct. 5 to avoid a bruising second round.

Rousseff is still favoured to win a runoff by 37.8 per cent against 32.7 per cent for Neves, but the gap between them has narrowed to 5.1 from 6.7 percentage points in April, according to Sensus.

The polls suggest the October election could be the toughest for the ruling Workers’ Party since it came to power in 2003 led by Rousseff’s predecessor and mentor, former union leader Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Polls showing declining support for Rousseff have boosted the Sao Paulo stock market, which hit a seven-month high on Wednesday, as investors bet on a move away from heavy state intervention in the economy under Rousseff’s government.

Neves, 54, plans to restore vitality to Brazil’s once booming economy by adopting more business-friendly policies and reining in the expansion of public spending to less than the GDP rate of growth.

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