Sunday, October 3, 2010

Calm marks election in Brazil to choose Lula\'s successor

Rio de Janeiro, Oct 4 (DPA) Voting ended without major incident in Brazil Sunday in a general election to chose from among nine candidates a successor to hugely popular President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

The favoured candidates are Dilma Rousseff, 62 Lula\'s favourite candidate from the Workers\' Party (PT) and a former guerrilla fighter, and her main rival, Jose Serra, 68, of the Party of Brazilian Social Democracy (PSDB) and the son of an Italian immigrant.

According to the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE), the election was calm even though a total of 963 election-related incidents were reported.

As a result, 394 people, including a former state governor and 25 other politicians, were arrested for alleged illegal campaigning or for attempting to buy votes, among other electoral crimes.

Polling stations in most parts of the country opened at 1100 GMT and closed nine hours later, with almost 136 million Brazilians - of a total of over 190 million - registered to vote. In the country\'s six Amazonian states, polling stations were open till 2100 GMT.

With microcomputers called \'electronic ballot boxes\' in place, a quick vote count was expected.

As she cast her ballot in the southern city of Porto Alegre, Rousseff thanked her mentor, members of their shared Workers\' Party (PT) and God for the chance to run for president.

She stressed that, if elected, she would keep up Lula\'s \'commitment to the transformation\' of Brazil, with a view to reducing regional inequalities and promoting \'economic growth with income distribution and social inclusion\'.

Rousseff, who has high poll ratings, also mentioned in passing the lymphatic cancer that affected her last year, from which doctors say she is completely cured.

\'I thank God for having given me strength,\' she said.

Lula himself voted in the industrial city of Sao Bernardo do Campo, where he began his political career as a trade union leader.

\'I am very optimistic that we will end the vote in great calm. We will await the result and we will see what happens,\' he told reporters after casting his ballot.

He hailed the day\'s election as \'an extraordinary moment for the consolidation of Brazilian democracy\'.

Lula also stressed that he had no intention to run for office again after he leaves the presidency Jan 1, 2011.

\'Once you go through the presidency of the republic, you need calm,\' he said.

Lula also noted that this is the first time since the return of democracy in 1985 when Brazilians have not had the option to vote for him for president. He lost his first three attempts to reach the presidency, in 1989, 1994 and 1998. He was finally elected in 2002 and was re-elected in 2006.

Aside from choosing a new president, set to be inaugurated Jan 1, 2011, Brazilians are to elect all 513 members of the lower house of Congress and 54 of their 81 senators, as well as the governors of all 26 states and the federal district of Brasilia.

Exit poll results are expected around after 2100 or 2200 GMT, with the first preliminary official results expected at around the same time.

Rousseff, who is Lula\'s former chief of staff, is favoured to win, with several opinion polls noting that she is likely to carry the election in just one round of voting. She had never stood for public office, before being chosen as presidential candidate for the ruling PT.

Her main rival Serra is the former governor of the state of Sao Paulo, the most powerful in Brazil. He started the campaign as the favourite but then lost ground as Lula actively campaigned for Rousseff.

As he cast his ballot, Serra expressed his hope in reaching a runoff election, \'for Brazil\'s sake\'.

Former Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso (1995-2002), of Serra\'s social democratic party, accused Rousseff of being a puppet.

\'You have to have real politicians, not puppets,\' he denounced as he cast his vote in Sao Paulo.

Cardoso accused Rousseff of not being a leader herself.

\'She is always standing beside the president,\' he complained.

If none of the candidates gets over half the votes Sunday, the top two are to face off in a runoff Oct 31.

Jose Mendonca Filho, who was governor of the northeastern Brazilian state of Pernambuco from April-December 2006, was arrested Sunday in for alleged illegal campaigning on election day, the TSE said.

Mendonca Filho, a member of right-wing party Democratas standing for a seat in the lower house of the federal Congress, was then taken to electoral justice facilities in the city of Recife, where he was to testify, according to the tribunal.

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