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Brazilians Set to Choose New President

Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff, presidential candidate for re-election, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Oct. 23, 2014. Her opponent, Aecio Neves (right), in Rio de Janeiro, Oct. 24, 2014.

Brazilians will choose a president Sunday.

Two candidates will be on the ballot -- President Dilma Rousseff and Senator Aecio Neves. Rousseff won the most votes in the first round of voting earlier this month, but she did not win a majority of votes, so a runoff election is required.

Rousseff received almost 42 percent of the 112 million votes cast on Oct. 5. She received a majority of votes in 15 of Brazil’s 27 states. Neves got nearly 34 percent of the votes. He won in 12 states, including Sao Paulo, which has more people than any other state.

Experts say Rousseff was successful because of the popularity of her political party, called the Partido dos Trabalhadores, or Workers’ Party. The country’s low-wage workers strongly support her and her party. Many social welfare programs were created during the two terms of Workers’ Party president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. He is known as “Lula” in Brazil and was very popular.

When Rousseff spoke to her supporters after the announcement of the Oct. 5 election results, she noted the popularity of her political party.

"Once again the Brazilian people have honored me with their confidence in giving me this victory in the first round," she said. "For the Workers’ Party, this is the seventh victory: two during the first election of President Lula, two during the second election of President Lula, two during my election, and now one in this first round of my re-election."

Her opponent, Neves, is an economist and a senator who served two terms as governor of the state of Minas Gerais. Neves is the candidate of the Partido da Social Democracia Brasileira, or Brazilian Social Democratic Party.

Both the Workers Party and the Brazilian Social Democratic party have competed for many years, but Neves says he wants to stop the fighting between the two parties.

He says he wants the support of Brazilians who are angry but dream of a better country. He urged Brazilians to believe, as he says he has always believed, that it is possible for the government to be both kind and able to reach its goals.

​Former environment minister and senator Marina Silva placed third in the first round of elections. She received more than 21 percent of the votes. Silva became popular in public opinion polls after the death of Governor Eduardo Campos in a plane crash in August. Campos was the candidate of the Partido Socialista, or Socialist Party.

Silva belonged to the Worker’s Party for 25 years before joining the Socialist Party. During the campaign, the Worker’s Party strongly attacked her. Some political observers said it was the most negative campaign in Brazil since the country returned to democracy almost 30 years ago.

Silva has given her support to Neves. Her supporters may decide who wins the election.

Rousseff has many issues to deal with. The Brazilian economy is in poor condition. Some observers say it has entered a recession. Rousseff has been accused of lacking a clear plan to help the country’s economy improve. The government-controlled oil company, Petrobras, is accused of making billions of dollars in illegal payments. Rousseff was the head of the company’s governing board during the Lula administration. She has reportedly said she did not know anything about the payments.

Voting in Brazil is required, or mandatory, for all citizens between the ages of 18 and 70. This includes Brazilians living in other countries, including the United States.

Janete Callahan is a Brazilian citizen living in Washington, D.C.

“We Brazilians that live here in the United States, we have to report to the Brazilian consulate or embassy,” she said. “So the Brazilian consulate here in Washington, DC, they organized the election in a hotel. So I believe that’s where we are going this Sunday.”