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Brazil: October Runoff Election Expected

In Brazil, votes are still being counted from Sunday's Presidential race, but partial returns show the frontrunner, leftist candidate Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, will have to face a runoff election later this month. Mr. da Silva finished first but failed to win an absolute majority.

The returns show Mr. da Silva, a bearded former union leader known by his nickname Lula, finished far ahead of his three main rivals, but failed to win the absolute majority needed to avoid a second round. The returns show the government's candidate, Jose Serra, finished second, thereby winning the chance to run again for President against Mr. da Silva.

Mr. da Silva, a founder in 1980 of the leftist Workers' Party, came into Sunday's election as a heavy favorite. Making his fourth run for the Presidency, Mr. da Silva moderated his leftist rhetoric of the past that had brought about his previous defeats. Instead, he campaigned on promises to revive a stagnant economy, and bring change to Brazil, but without a radical shift to the left.

This message appealed to voters like Maria Cristina Alves an engineer who works in Rio de Janeiro. At a Rio polling center Sunday, she expressed hope Mr. da Silva would win outright. "It will be very bad for the country these 20 days, with one saying bad things against the other one," he says. "It's not going to be good for the country or its image in the world... because I think he will win anyway, but I think it will be very much better for us if he wins in the first round."

The first round was not completely free of negative advertisements, but they did not dominate the campaign. However, analyst David Fleischer predicts a second round will be much more negative. "It would be a different campaign, it would make the first round look like a picnic. It would be a very bloody campaign, with a lot of negative campaigning, a lot of mud being slung back and forth, in sort of a bloodbath between the two candidates."

Runner up Jose Serra, a former health minister in the current government, campaigned on promises to create jobs, and maintain the free market reforms enacted by President Fernando Henrique Cardoso. But slow economic growth over the past two years hurt his candidacy, along with his lack of charisma.

This does not bother voter Maria Medici, who describes Mr. Serra as a workaholic. "I think that the man who was very good in a ministry, will be better as a President because he doesn't sleep, he works from nine to three o'clock in the morning and he is a very demanding, so he gets what he wants from the people working for him."

Mr. Serra and Mr. da Silva will face each other in a runoff election on October 27.

It is expected the coming days will be filled with negotiations, as the two candidates try to strike alliances with various parties and the two defeated Presidential contenders, Anthony Garotinho and Ciro Gomes. Analysts say attracting the supporters of the two, who are on the left of the political spectrum, will be crucial for victory by either Mr. da Silva or Mr. Serra.

One-hundred-fifteen million Brazilians were registered to vote Sunday, in an election that took place without major incidents reported.

Brazil, Latin America's biggest country, is the world's ninth largest economy. However, up to one third of the population lives below the poverty line, and poverty, inequality, and sluggish economic growth were the main campaign issues in the Presidential race.