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Leftist Front-Runner Likely to Win Brazilian Presidency


Brazilians go to the polls Sunday in a presidential run-off election that is likely to result in a landslide victory for a leftwing candidate. Former labor leader Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is poised to become Brazil's first working class president.

Opinion polls show Mr. da Silva is going into Sunday's runoff election with a 30 point lead over his rival, former health minister Jose Serra of the centrist governing coalition.

Mr. da Silva, known universally as Lula, has campaigned on promises to change the current government's economic policies that have favored free markets and free trade. A former metalworker and union leader, Lula da Silva has pledged to revive Brazil's stagnant economy while also enacting more social programs to alleviate widespread poverty.

Rival Jose Serra has promised to keep Brazil on the path of fiscal stability, while also strengthening government social programs.

If Mr. da Silva wins, he will become Brazil's first leftwing president to rule the giant nation since the early 1960s. In the last act of the campaign, the two candidates faced each other late Friday in a nationwide debate. The encounter was cordial, but each man did his best to lay out their differences. Mr. Serra, known for his administrative abilities, stressed the themes of competence and familiarity with government programs and policies.

Mr. da Silva emphasized his skills as negotiator honed during his time as a union leader, and also criticized what he called the failures of the current government.

The burly ex-factory worker is making his fourth run for the presidency. Defeated in two elections by current President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Mr. da Silva this time dropped his fiery leftist rhetoric of the past and moved himself and his Workers' Party toward the political center.

Alexandre Barros of the risk analysis firm, Early Warning, said this has proved to be key to his success with the electorate. "Basically, he posed as an alternative to Cardoso, and what really kept voters away from Lula in previous elections was the fear that he might be a radical and he to a large extent managed to convey an image of being someone who matured, who is different nowadays from what he was in all the previous elections and it looks like he's going to be winning 60 to 40, or 65 to 35," explained Mr. Barros.

In the first round on October 6, Mr. da Silva won 46 percent, compared to 23 percent for Mr. Serra. Some 115 million Brazilians are registered to vote Sunday. Aside from the presidential contest, runoff elections will be held for the governors of 13 states and the federal district.

Brazil has a population of 170 million people and is the world's ninth largest economy.

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