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Analysts: Rousseff on Course to Become Brazil's First Female President

Dilma Rousseff (file photo)

Dilma Rousseff is the favorite to become Brazil's first female president, even though she did not receive enough votes in Sunday's balloting to avoid a runoff election. The woman chosen by President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva to succeed him has come a long way since she was a young leftist rebel. But, many Brazilians say they are unsure of her political leanings.

Only a year ago, Dilma Rousseff was a little known figure in Brazil. That was the case even though she was the chief of staff to President da Silva.

During the campaign, Mr. da Silva presented his protégé as the architect of many of his key projects.

That was enough to convince voter Ana Paula Vale de Santos.

"I don't know anything about Dilma, but I'm voting for her because her plan is to continue what Lula has done," she said.

Rousseff won 47 percent of the vote on Sunday. Her main rival, Jose Serra - whom she will face in a runoff vote on October 31 - received 33 percent of the ballots cast.

But analysts say that having a second round of voting raises several unknowns. One is whether four more weeks of campaigning will affect Rousseff's health. She recently survived a bout with cancer.

Another unknown is her past as a Marxist guerrilla during Brazil's dictatorship in the 1960s. Many of Rousseff's critics say she is a radical and cannot be trusted to run the country.

In her speech after Sunday's election, Rousseff promised to elaborate on her plans for the country.

"In this second round, I will take the opportunity to go into more detail over my proposals," she said.

When Mr. da Silva was first elected in 2002, many people on the right feared that his administration would be anti-capitalist. But Brazil's economy grew and his approval rating soared to 80 percent.

Some Brazilians say that because their constitution limits presidents to two terms in office, Mr. da Silva hopes to maintain his influence through Rousseff.

Merval Pereira is a commentator for O Globo newspaper and Globo TV:

"I think he chose her exactly because she has no history, no political groups - nothing," said Pereira. "She depends on him completely."

Rousseff is the candidate of a leftist coalition dominated by Mr. da Silva's Workers' Party. Analysts say her lack of political experience might also be a serious handicap, given the deep rifts in that coalition.