Dilma Rousseff, who spent nearly three years in jail during her country's
years of military dictatorship and was tortured behind bars, appears to be
on course to secure victory in Sunday's election.
A series of polls in recent days have suggested that Ms Rousseff, 62, may
narrowly pass the 50 per cent of the vote she needs to be elected outright.
Some analysts have predicted that she could fall marginally short but her lead
of around 20 percentage-points over her main rival Jose Serra, of the
opposition PDSB party, means she would expect a comfortable victory in a
run-off at the end of the month.
She would join Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, the current president of
Argentina, and Michelle Bachelet, who served as Chile's first woman
president from 2006 until March this year, as recent women leaders in South
Costa Rica also elected its first woman president, Laura Chinchilla, earlier
The daughter of a Bulgarian immigrant father and a teacher, Ms Rousseff comes
from a middle-class background but was active in guerilla groups that
fought Brazil's military dictatorship, which held power from 1964 to 1985.
She was jailed in 1970 and subjected to electric shocks during her sentence
before being released at the end of 1972.
After her release Ms Rousseff studied economics and established herself as a
career civil servant. She served as energy minister under the outgoing
President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva before becoming his chief of staff.
Her campaign has benefited hugely from her association with Mr Lula, the man
referred to as "the most popular politician on earth" by President Barack
But her poll ratings have dipped from a peak of 57 per cent two weeks ago
after campaign aides were accused of leaking Mr Serra's tax records and
Erenice Guerra, her replacement as cabinet chief, was forced to step down
amid a corruption scandal.
Ms Rousseff, who survived lymphatic cancer last year, has taken to calling on
members of her ruling Workers Party to "get into the streets to grab each
Mr Serra has attacked the Workers Party over Brazil's close relations with
Iran and by claiming that the country's "mega over-valued" currency was
hurting exports but has struggled to make any significant inroads into Ms