Brazil’s most unpredictable presidential election in a generation is heading toward a photo finish on Oct. 26 between leftist incumbent Dilma Rousseff and pro-business challenger Aecio Neves, a new poll showed on Wednesday. In an increasingly acrimonious campaign, the candidates traded accusations of lies, corruption and nepotism in a bruising television debate on Tuesday night that had no clear winner and saw more attacks than discussion of policy issues. Neves, the market favorite, has gained ground since his stronger-than-expected showing in the first-round vote on Oct. 5, when he bested environmentalist Marina Silva to place second behind Rousseff. But Neves has struggled to build on that momentum and has been running neck-and-neck with Rousseff in opinion polls for the last week.
Neves has 45 percent of voter support against 43 percent for Rousseff, according to a new survey by polling firm Datafolha, one percentage point less than each candidate had in a previous poll six days ago. The difference between the two is statistically insignificant because it is within the poll’s margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.
Excluding undecided voters, spoiled and blank survey responses, Neves has 51 percent against 49 percent for Rousseff, the same as last week.
“We are heading for a photo finish,” said Andre Cesar, a political analyst in Brasilia, who expects the remaining three debates before the vote to get rougher. “If no candidate slips up badly in the next debates, their numbers won’t change much.”