Dilma Rousseff is fighting for a second term as president of Brazil, at the head of the powerful PT Workers’ Party.
Economic growth is slumped, Brazilians have been rebelling over social services… it’s the closest election in a generation.
Rousseff’s rival is Aécio Neves of the PSDB Social Democrats. He was born into privilege, and is the favourite of many liberals and conservatives.
The left have been in government for 12 years. Before that, the right governed for eight years.
To win votes in the shanty towns — because Brazil has a huge electorate living without basic amenities — the rivals both promise to continue family allowances.
Vera Lucia Lemos, a resident of Jardim Gramacho, said: “I live on [the equivalent of about 47 euros] per month. Tomorrow I’ll go get the money and buy what I need for my son. I’ll have to wait for next month to get the money that Dilma will give me again. If it wasn’t for her we’d be in trouble. My mother raised 12 children with the Bolsa Familia.”
Economic growth during Rousseff’s presidency sputtered into recession this year. She has pulled ahead in recent opinion polls, but the Neves political and business heritage is attractive to the growing middle class.
Rio resident Beatriz Todeschini Pires said: “We see people wishing for a change. Everyone is against Dilma, but we don’t know. We are in an elite part of Rio de Janeiro here.”
Another Carioca, Almir Lima, said: “We need to change our president to change our economy and improve the indicators.”
Neves the grandson of a president, was elected to the lower house of congress in 1986, governor of wealthy Minas Gerais province from 2002 and then a senator from 2011.
Rousseff, as a revolutionary during Brazil’s 1964-85 military dictatorship, was tortured in prison.
Yet even as they try to undermine each other, he and she have gravitated to the centre ground.
Both vow to improve public services and reduce corruption.
He promises to restore investor confidence. She reminds voters of expanding social programmes.
Our correspondent Rita Ferreira summed up: “In the country’s biggest electoral college, Sao Paolo, [the candidates] have intensified their street campaigns in the final week. This is the hardest-fought campaign in Brazil’s history.”