BRASILIA (REUTERS) - President Dilma Rousseff is running neck-and-neck with her main rival, Marina Silva, less than three weeks before Brazil's presidential election that will likely go down to the wire in a runoff, a poll published on Monday showed.
The new survey was consistent with polls last week that showed Rousseff had recovered from an initial surge by environmentalist Silva and the race will go to a second-round vote that looks so close that some analysts are reluctant to pick a favourite.
The election is being closely watched by investors who are hoping that an end to 12 years of rule by Rousseff's Workers' Party will issue in more market friendly policies to shake the world's seventh-largest economy out of stagnation.
In the latest survey by polling firm Vox Populi, Silva has 42 per cent of voter support in the expected runoff, one percentage point ahead of Rousseff, the same level of backing that each candidates had in the previous poll five days ago.
For the first-round vote, Rousseff's lead has widened to nine percentage points from eight, according to Vox Populi. Rousseff's voter support was unchanged at 36 per cent, while Silva's slipped one percentage point to 27 per cent from the earlier poll on Sept 10.
Support for centrist candidate Aecio Neves, the market favourite, was unchanged at 15 per cent.
If no candidate gets a majority in the first vote on Oct 5, the two top vote-getters will decide the race in a runoff on Oct 27.
The polls show Silva's sudden growth in voter support has peaked as she comes under heavier attack from her rivals, while a new scandal brewing at state-run oil company Petrobras does not appear to have damaged incumbent Rousseff.
Silva accused the Workers' Party of "raiding the coffers" of Petrobras after a jailed executive reportedly alleged that the company was at the center of a vast kickback scheme involving dozens of politicians and even Brazil's current energy minister.
The Rousseff campaign has targeted Silva, an icon of the green movement, for delaying infrastructure projects needed for Brazil's development when she was minister and favouring industrial policies that will cause layoffs.
"The probability of victory is equal for both candidates," said Credit Suisse analyst Nilson Teixeira. Silva looked like a sure winner when she surged last month, but that has changed and now "uncertainty is a more reasonable scenario to work with".
The Vox Populi poll surveyed 2,000 voters on Saturday and Sunday and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.2 percentage points. The results were broadcast by TV Record on the network's nightly news programme.