Voters in Brazil are going to the polls, with incumbent President Dilma Rousseff likely to face a runoff. But the battle for second place may be very close fought.
Brazilians went to the polls on Sunday in presidential and legislative elections pitting two main challengers against incumbent President Dilma Rousseff.
More than 142 million people are eligible to vote in the poll, which observers say is likely to result in a runoff for Rousseff against one of her two rivals.
Pre-elections surveys on Saturday put Marina Silva, a former environment minister and senator, in third place with between 21 and 24 percent of the vote, just behind the business-friendly Aecio Neves (24-27 percent). Both were a considerable distance behind Rousseff whose rating lay between 41 and 46 percent.
Silva had been a frontrunner in some earlier surveys, but tough campaigning from the other two candidates cut some of her support.
Despite Rousseff's apparently clear lead, she is unlikely to achieve the absolute majority required to avoid a second-round election, which would take place on October 26.
Successful social programs
The election is being seen as a referendum on the record of Rousseff's Workers' Party (PT) after 12 years in power, with the country in the grip of a recession since January.
Rousseff, 66, has also been affected in the past few weeks by a corruption scandal implicating dozens of politicians, including many of her allies, at state-owned oil giant Petrobras.
But many voters will give her credit for launching social programs that have helped 40 million Brazilians escape poverty, as well for an economic boom in the 2000s.
The opening phase of the election campaign was overshadowed by the death of Socialist candidate Eduardo Campos in a plane crash on August 13.
His place was taken by Silva, his 56-year-old running mate, who has drawn support from both religious conservatives and the left.
Neves is a former governor and member of the powerful Social Democratic party (PSDB), which has alternated with Rousseff's PT in ruling the country over the past 20 years.
Voters are also electing 27 state governors, 51 congressmen and 1069 regional lawmakers, as well as a third of the senate.
Results are expected to be known shortly after polling stations close in the late afternoon, local time.
tj/ipj (AFP, AP)