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Brazilians head to polls in tense race

AFP-Jiji RIO DE JANEIRO (AFP-Jiji) — Brazilians were headed to the polls Sunday to elect a new president, with a far-right politician promising an iron-fisted crackdown on crime, Jair Bolsonaro, the firm favorite going into the first round.

Surveys suggest the 63-year-old former paratrooper, who wants to cut spiraling debt through sweeping privatizations and embrace the United States and Israel, could count on more than one in three voters in the vast Latin American nation.

But at least as many in the 147-million-strong electorate reject the veteran federal lawmaker, who is known for repeated offensive comments against women, gays and the poor, and for lauding the military dictatorship Brazil shucked off just three decades ago.

If Bolsonaro gets more than 50 percent of the vote to lead the field of 13 candidates, he will win the presidency outright. Otherwise, a run-off will be held on Oct. 28.

Analysts say a first-round victory for Bolsonaro is possible — but unlikely.

The last surveys released late Saturday credited Bolsonaro with 36 percent against 22 percent for his nearest rival, leftist former Sao Paulo Mayor Fernando Haddad.

With blank and invalid votes stripped out, Bolsonaro could pocket 40 percent to 41 percent of the vote to 25 percent for Haddad, polling firms Ibope and Datafolha said.Speech

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