Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's popularity has bounced back from a corruption scandal that threatened to derail his government, making him the favourite to win October's election, a poll showed on Tuesday.
Just a few months ago, it appeared that a scandal over illegal campaign funding had ruined Lula's chances of a second term. Several polls showed the former factory worker losing, raising questions about whether he would even seek reelection.
But with the scandal fading and the economy gaining steam, Lula's popularity is growing again. Tuesday's poll was the first in months to show Lula winning the election in a runoff.
"The scare is beginning to pass," said Ricardo Guedes, director of the Sensus Institute, which conducted the poll. "Voters are starting to focus instead on the government's achievements."
The poll, commissioned by Brazil's National Transport Confederation, showed Lula's approval rating jumped to 53.3 percent from a low of 46.7 percent in November. The government's approval rating also improved, rising to 37.5 percent from 31.1 percent.
The survey was the third poll in less than a month to bring good news for Lula. His ratings suffered in the second half of 2005 after the ruling Workers' Party admitted to using illegal campaign funds and was accused of buying votes in Congress.
Epoca news magazine ran a cover story this weekend on Lula's election chances headlined: "Who said he was dead?"
Key support came from the poor, many of whom have benefited from government aid programs such as Bolsa Familia, which pays monthly stipends to families living below the poverty line.
Lula has also bolstered his standing by travelling across Brazil to inaugurate public works projects while opposition parties are still scrambling to come up with a candidate.
"The government isn't officially on the campaign trail, but it is beginning to showcase what it has done in the media," Guedes said.
Tuesday's poll showed Lula would win the election in a runoff vote, beating Jose Serra of the opposition Brazilian Social Democracy Party, or PSDB.
The survey, which has a margin of error of 3 percentage points, gave Lula 47.6 percent of the vote in a second round versus 37.6 percent in November. Serra, who was trounced by Lula in the 2002 race, had 37.6 percent compared with 41.5 percent