Brazil votes for next president


Brazilians began voting for president today in an election widely expected to favour Dilma Rousseff, a left-leaning civil servant who has vowed to keep Brazil on its path of economic prosperity.

Polls show Ms Rousseff with a double-digit lead over rival Jose Serra largely because of the endorsement of popular out-going president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, whose social welfare policies lifted millions of out poverty.

Her campaign in recent weeks has quelled doubts among religious voters about her moral values that cost her an outright victory in the first round a month ago, as Brazilians again focus on the economic gains during eight years of Mr Lula's leadership.

Helio das Chagas (48) a pastor and government worker in the capital of Brasilia speaking on the eve of the vote said he planned to back Ms Rousseff because of improvement in the lives of Brazilians under Mr Lula.

"A lot of things changed for the better in the country. People have more spending power now," said Mr das Chagas, who had shunned Ms Rousseff in the first round amid controversy over her views on religion and abortion.

"She reached out to the evangelical churches ... and said she's going to fight against abortion," he said. "She changed her discourse, which was because of pressure from (religious voters)."

Ms Rousseff voted in the southern city of Porto Alegre and left the polling station surrounded by a mass of journalists and supporters who waved the ruling Workers' Party red flag with a yellow star.

"Tomorrow we begin a new phase of democracy," she said.

Mr Serra, a career politician who most recently was governor of Brazil's wealthiest state, has a mountain to climb if he is to pull off a surprise victory after a lacklustre campaign in which he has seemed to be on the wrong side of history.

Brazil has banished its old reputation as an economic basket case and become an engine of global growth as Mr Lula's mix of pragmatic policies and social programs have reduced poverty and vaulted millions into a bulging middle class.

The electoral authority will start announcing partial results after 9pm (Irish time).