A surging Marina Silva took Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff to task in an election debate Tuesday night when she touted her government's achievements in improving social conditions and defending wages in the midst of global economic crisis.
The colorful Brazil that President Dilma has described only exists in the cinema said Silva, vowing to shake up Brazil's politics by governing without murky pacts with traditional parties but also inviting their brightest minds to join her.
Analysts say Silva has benefited from sympathy over the tragic death of Eduardo Campos, who had invited her to join his ticket as his running mate, and they will be watching a series of opinion polls this week to see if support for Silva wanes after the initial surge.
Silva is seen as an anti-establishment figure who could restore ethical principles to Brazilian politics and she appeals to voters who are disenchanted with Brazil's main parties. A fervent evangelical Christian, she will also draw votes from this growing religious constituency.
A poll released this week showed Silva stealing support from all candidates, including another evangelical candidate Pastor Everaldo, and drawing uncommitted voters into the election.
The prospect of Silva defeating Rousseff has rallied Brazil's stock market for two weeks, with investors betting on an end to the populist president's interventionist economic policies, which have undermined business confidence in the once high-flying emerging market economy.
Yet Silva's intransigent style of politics may make it difficult for her to build the coalitions with traditional political parties that she would need to govern Brazil.
Silva's economic platform will be announced on Friday. While her policies remain a mystery, her top adviser, Eduardo Giannetti, has said they will be as orthodox and market-friendly as those of Neves.
Silva met recently with bankers in Sao Paulo and said, if elected, she would mostly delegate economic policy to a respected group of advisers. I'm not going to try to manage something I don't understand, one banker present quoted her as saying.
A new poll shows Marina Silva would defeat Dilma in a runoff vote in October’s election. The poll was conducted by the respected Ibope firm and was published on the Estado de Sao Paulo’s website.
It says 45% of respondents would vote for former environment minister Silva in an expected second-round, compared to 36% for Rousseff.
Silva has 29% of voter support heading into the October 5 vote, according to the survey. The poll showed Rousseff with 34%, down from 38% in the previous Ibope survey in early August. The other main opposition candidate, Senator Aécio Neves, had 19% support, down from 23% in the last Ibope poll.
In a likely second-round runoff on October 26 between the top two vote-getters, Silva would defeat Rousseff by a margin of nine percentage points, according to the poll, which had a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points. Ibope surveyed 2,506 people nationwide between Aug. 23-26 for the poll.