Brazilian President Rousseff is re-elected

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Brazil Re-Elects Rousseff After Bitter Campaign

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) - Left-leaning President Dilma Rousseff was re-elected Sunday in the tightest race Brazil has seen since its return to democracy three decades ago, giving the juggernaut Workers' Party its fourth-straight presidential victory and the chance to extend its social transformation of the globe's fifth-largest country.

Rousseff took 51.6 percent of the votes and center-right challenger Aecio Neves had 48.4 percent, with almost all ballots counted. The result reflected a nation deeply divided after what many called the most acrimonious campaign since the return to democracy, with charges of corruption, nepotism and ample personal barbs thrown by both sides.

The re-elected leader faces an immense challenge of reigniting a stalled economy, improving woeful public services that ignited huge anti-government protests last year, and trying to push political reforms through a highly fragmented congress where the governing coalition has less support than it did four years ago.

Speaking in front of a banner that read "New Government, New Ideas" and a giant photo of Rousseff from her days as a militant who fought against Brazil's long military regime, she thanked her supporters, starting with her political mentor and predecessor Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who picked her to take his place in 2010.

"My dears, my friends, we have arrived at the end of a campaign that intensely mobilized all the forces of this country," Rousseff said. "I thank every Brazilian, without exception."

She added that she "thanks from the bottom of my heart, our No. 1 militant, President Lula," as the former leader used a handkerchief to wipe tears from his eyes.

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Brazil President Dilma Rousseff re-elected
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Brazilian President Rousseff is re-elected
Brazil's President and Workers Party presidential candidate Dilma Rousseff, shows her electronic voting receipt that confirms she voted in the presidential runoff election as she drinks mate, an herbal tea, in Porto Alegre, Brazil, Sunday, Oct. 26, 2014. Rousseff is leading opposition contender Aecio Neves 51-to-49 percent with 95 percent of the vote counted. Still, there are too many uncounted votes for a winner to be declared. That's according to the official count Sunday night from the nation's top electoral court. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
Supporters of Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff, who is running for re-election with the Workers Party, PT, celebrate the election results before a press conference in a hotel in Brasilia, Brazil, Sunday, Oct. 26, 2014. Rousseff is leading opposition contender Aecio Neves with 95 percent of the vote counted. Still, there are too many uncounted votes for a winner to be declared. That's according to the official count Sunday night from the nation's top electoral court. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)
A supporter of Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff, who is running for re-election with the Workers Party, PT, celebrates the election results before a press conference in a hotel in Brasilia, Brazil, Sunday, Oct. 26, 2014. Rousseff is leading opposition contender Aecio Neves with 95 percent of the vote counted. Still, there are too many uncounted votes for a winner to be declared. That's according to the official count Sunday night from the nation's top electoral court. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)
Supporters of Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff, who is running for re-election with the Workers Party, PT, celebrate the election results before a press conference in a hotel in Brasilia, Brazil, Sunday, Oct. 26, 2014. Rousseff is leading opposition contender Aecio Neves with 95 percent of the vote counted. Still, there are too many uncounted votes for a winner to be declared. That's according to the official count Sunday night from the nation's top electoral court. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)
A supporter of Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff, who is running for re-election with the Workers Party, PT, celebrates the election results in Brasilia, Brazil, Sunday, Oct. 26, 2014. Rousseff is leading opposition contender Aecio Neves with 95 percent of the vote counted. Still, there are too many uncounted votes for a winner to be declared. That's according to the official count Sunday night from the nation's top electoral court. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
Supporters of re-elected President Dilma Rousseff, for the Workers' Party (PT), celebrate in Brasilia on October 26, 2014. Leftist incumbent Dilma Rousseff was re-elected president of Brazil, the country's Supreme Electoral Tribunal said, after a down-to-the-wire race against center-right challenger Aecio Neves. Rousseff, who had 51.45 percent of the vote with 98 percent of ballots counted, was declared the run-off winner. AFP PHOTO / EVARISTO SA (Photo credit should read EVARISTO SA/AFP/Getty Images)
Supporters of re-elected President Dilma Rousseff, for the Workers' Party (PT), celebrate in Brasilia on October 26, 2014. Leftist incumbent Dilma Rousseff was re-elected president of Brazil, the country's Supreme Electoral Tribunal said, after a down-to-the-wire race against center-right challenger Aecio Neves. Rousseff, who had 51.45 percent of the vote with 98 percent of ballots counted, was declared the run-off winner. AFP PHOTO / EVARISTO SA (Photo credit should read EVARISTO SA/AFP/Getty Images)
Supporters of re-elected President Dilma Rousseff, for the Workers' Party (PT), celebrate in Brasilia on October 26, 2014. Leftist incumbent Dilma Rousseff was re-elected president of Brazil, the country's Supreme Electoral Tribunal said, after a down-to-the-wire race against center-right challenger Aecio Neves. Rousseff, who had 51.45 percent of the vote with 98 percent of ballots counted, was declared the run-off winner. AFP PHOTO / EVARISTO SA (Photo credit should read EVARISTO SA/AFP/Getty Images)
Supporters of re-elected President Dilma Rousseff, for the Workers' Party (PT), celebrate in Brasilia on October 26, 2014. Leftist incumbent Dilma Rousseff was re-elected president of Brazil, the country's Supreme Electoral Tribunal said, after a down-to-the-wire race against center-right challenger Aecio Neves. Rousseff, who had 51.45 percent of the vote with 98 percent of ballots counted, was declared the run-off winner. AFP PHOTO / EVARISTO SA (Photo credit should read EVARISTO SA/AFP/Getty Images)
Supporters of re-elected President Dilma Rousseff, for the Workers' Party (PT), celebrate in Brasilia on October 26, 2014. Leftist incumbent Dilma Rousseff was re-elected president of Brazil, the country's Supreme Electoral Tribunal said, after a down-to-the-wire race against center-right challenger Aecio Neves. Rousseff, who had 51.45 percent of the vote with 98 percent of ballots counted, was declared the run-off winner. AFP PHOTO / EVARISTO SA (Photo credit should read EVARISTO SA/AFP/Getty Images)
BRASILIA, BRAZIL - OCTOBER 26: Supporters of Brazilian President and Workers' Party (PT) candidate Dilma Rousseff cheer as partial results are announced on October 26, 2014 in Brasilia, Brazil. Rousseff is facing off with Presidential candidate of the Brazilian Social Democratic Party (PSDB) Aecio Neves in a run-off election today. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
BRASILIA, BRAZIL - OCTOBER 26: Supporters of Brazilian President and Workers' Party (PT) candidate Dilma Rousseff cheer as partial results are announced on October 26, 2014 in Brasilia, Brazil. Rousseff is facing off with Presidential candidate of the Brazilian Social Democratic Party (PSDB) Aecio Neves in a run-off election today. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
Supporters of Brazilian President and presidential candidate for the Workers Party (PT), Dilma Rousseff celebrate following the first partial results in the run-off election, in Brasilia on October 26, 2014. AFP PHOTO / EVARISTO SA (Photo credit should read EVARISTO SA/AFP/Getty Images)
Supporters of Brazilian President and presidential candidate for the Workers Party (PT), Dilma Rousseff celebrate following the first partial results in the run-off election, in Brasilia on October 26, 2014. AFP PHOTO / EVARISTO SA (Photo credit should read EVARISTO SA/AFP/Getty Images)
Supporters of Brazilian President and presidential candidate for the Workers Party (PT), Dilma Rousseff celebrate following the first partial results in the run-off election, in Brasilia on October 26, 2014. AFP PHOTO / EVARISTO SA (Photo credit should read EVARISTO SA/AFP/Getty Images)
Supporters of Brazilian President and presidential candidate for the Workers Party (PT), Dilma Rousseff celebrate following the first partial results, in Brasilia on October 26, 2014. AFP PHOTO / EVARISTO SA (Photo credit should read EVARISTO SA/AFP/Getty Images)
Supporters of Brazilian President and presidential candidate for the Workers Party (PT), Dilma Rousseff celebrate following the first partial results, in Brasilia on October 26, 2014. AFP PHOTO / EVARISTO SA (Photo credit should read EVARISTO SA/AFP/Getty Images)
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - OCTOBER 26. Supporters of the Brazilian President and the Workers' Party (PT) celebrate at party headquarters on October 26, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. President Dilma Rousseff won reelection with 51% of the valid votes. (Photos by Victor Moriyama/Getty Images)
BRASILIA, BRAZIL - OCTOBER 26: Supporters of Brazilian President and Workers' Party (PT) candidate Dilma Rousseff cheer as partial results are announced on October 26, 2014 in Brasilia, Brazil. Rousseff is facing off with Presidential candidate of the Brazilian Social Democratic Party (PSDB) Aecio Neves in a run-off election today. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - OCTOBER 26. Supporters of the Brazilian President and the Workers' Party (PT) celebrate at party headquarters on October 26, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. President Dilma Rousseff won reelection with 51% of the valid votes. (Photos by Victor Moriyama/Getty Images)
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - OCTOBER 26. Supporters of the Brazilian President and the Workers' Party (PT) celebrate at party headquarters on October 26, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. President Dilma Rousseff won reelection with 51% of the valid votes. (Photos by Victor Moriyama/Getty Images)
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - OCTOBER 26. Supporters of the Brazilian President and the Workers' Party (PT) celebrate at party headquarters on October 26, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. President Dilma Rousseff won reelection with 51% of the valid votes. (Photos by Victor Moriyama/Getty Images)
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - OCTOBER 26. Supporters of the Brazilian President and the Workers' Party (PT) celebrate at party headquarters on October 26, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. President Dilma Rousseff won reelection with 51% of the valid votes. (Photos by Victor Moriyama/Getty Images)
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - OCTOBER 26. Supporters of the Brazilian President and the Workers' Party (PT) celebrate at party headquarters on October 26, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. President Dilma Rousseff won reelection with 51% of the valid votes. (Photos by Victor Moriyama/Getty Images)
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - OCTOBER 26. Supporters of the Brazilian President and the Workers' Party (PT) celebrate at party headquarters on October 26, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. President Dilma Rousseff won reelection with 51% of the valid votes. (Photos by Victor Moriyama/Getty Images)
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - OCTOBER 26. Supporters of the Brazilian President and the Workers' Party (PT) celebrate at party headquarters on October 26, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. President Dilma Rousseff won reelection with 51% of the valid votes. (Photos by Victor Moriyama/Getty Images)
Hundreds of supporters celebrate the reelection of the Brazilian President and presidential candidate for the Workers' Party (PT) Dilma Rousseff in the presidential election run-off along Paulista Avenue in Sao Paulo Brazil on October 26 2014. Leftist incumbent Dilma Rousseff was re-elected president of Brazil on Sunday, the country's Supreme Electoral Tribunal said, after a down-to-the-wire race against center-right challenger Aecio Neves. AFP PHOTO / Nelson ALMEIDA (Photo credit should read NELSON ALMEIDA/AFP/Getty Images)
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - OCTOBER 26. Supporters of the Brazilian President and the Workers' Party (PT) celebrate at party headquarters on October 26, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. President Dilma Rousseff won reelection with 51% of the valid votes. (Photos by Victor Moriyama/Getty Images)
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - OCTOBER 26. Supporters of the Brazilian President and the Workers' Party (PT) celebrate at party headquarters on October 26, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. President Dilma Rousseff won reelection with 51% of the valid votes. (Photos by Victor Moriyama/Getty Images)
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - OCTOBER 26: Partido dos Trabalhadores activist walks with a flag of President Dilma Rousseff during the second round of elections on October 26, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Incumbent President Dilma Rousseff is competing against social democrat Aecio Neves for president. (Photo by Victor Moriyama/Getty Images)
Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff, presidential candidate for re-election of the Workers Party (PT), gestures next to an electronic ballot box after voting during Brazil's presidential election runoff in Porto Alegre, Brazil, Sunday, Oct. 26, 2014. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff, presidential candidate for re-election of the Workers Party (PT), left, is kissed by Tarso Genro, governor of Rio Grande do Sul, also running for re-election with PT, after voting during Brazil's presidential election runoff in Porto Alegre, Brazil, Sunday, Oct. 26, 2014. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
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Rousseff sounded a conciliatory tone, saying during the live broadcast that she understood the heightened demands of Brazilians. "That's why I want to be a much better president than I have been until now," she said.

During the Workers' Party time in power, the government has enacted expansive social programs that have helped pull millions of Brazilians out of poverty and into the middle class, transforming the lives of the poor.

But the globe's seventh-largest economy has underperformed since 2011, with some fearing it could put the social gains at risk.

"Dilma has social inclusion on her side, but the macroeconomic policies during her first four years in office have been very weak," said Carlos Pereira, a political analyst at the Gertulio Vargas Foundation, Brazil's leading think tank. "Inflation has returned, the country is in a technical recession and public spending is out of control. It is less likely she will be able to offer social inclusion and macroeconomic stability at the same time."

The choice between Rousseff and Neves split Brazilians into two camps - those who thought only the president would continue to protect the poor and advance social inclusion versus those who were certain that only the contender's market-friendly economic policies could see Brazil return to solid growth.

Rousseff and Neves fought bitterly to convince voters that they can deliver on both growth and social advances. This year's campaign is widely considered the most acrimonious since Brazil's return to democracy in 1985, a battle between the only two parties to have held the presidency since 1995.

Neves had hammered at Rousseff over a widening kickback scandal Petrobras, with an informant telling investigators that the Workers' Party directly benefited from the scheme.

Rousseff rejected those allegations and told Brazilians that a vote for Neves would be support for returning Brazil to times of intense economic turbulence, hyperinflation and high unemployment, which the nation encountered when the Social Democrats last held power.

"We've worked so hard to better the lives of the people, and we won't let anything in this world, not even in this crisis or all the pessimism, take away what they've conquered," Rousseff said before voting in southern Brazil.

In Brazil's biggest city of Sao Paulo, thousands of Workers' Party supporters gathered on a main avenue, waving banners as a truck with giant speakers blasted Rousseff's campaign jingles.

"I'm very happy because I think the construction of Brazil has barely begun and now we will have continuity," said Liliane Viana, a 56-year-old retired federal government worker. "I was afraid we were going to move backward. Now I am extremely excited."

Neves was a two-term governor in Minas Gerais state who left office in 2010 with a 92 percent approval rating. He surged at the end of the presidential race to score a surprise second-place position and force a runoff vote against Rousseff.

Speaking from his hometown of Belo Horizonte, he thanked the "more than 50 million Brazilians" who voted for him.

"I will be eternally grateful to each and every one of you who allowed me to dream again of the construction of a new project," he said. "I fought the good fight. I fulfilled my mission and I kept the faith."

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