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BRAZILIAN BLACK LOSING HER BID TO BE RIO MAYOR

SHARE BRAZILIAN BLACK LOSING HER BID TO BE RIO MAYOR

Early results show Benedita Souza da Silva has failed in her come-from-behind campaign to become the first black mayor of Rio de Janeiro.

In Sao Paulo, Brazil's largest city, a conservative candidate with a reputation for fiscal know-how appeared headed for a decisive victory.But da Silva's left-leaning Workers' Party was polling well in some of the other 24 municipalities holding mayoral races on Sunday.

The elections were seen as a bellwether for a national plebiscite in April, when Brazilians will choose between a presidential or parliamentary form of government.

Also, the vote should give acting President Itamar Franco - who took over after last month's suspension of President Fernando Collor de Mello in a kickback scandal - an indication of what parts of his coalition have more popular support.

In the Rio contest, da Silva, 50, faced economist Cesar Maia of the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party.

Four hours after the polls closed, TV Globo said that with 20 percent of the vote counted, Maia had 49 percent to da Silva's 37 percent.

Earlier, the television said exit polls indicated the race was too close to call, but the head of the polling company IBOPE, Brazil's largest, predicted Maia would win.

Da Silva told the television that the exit polls were rigged. "Only fraud can take this election away from me," she said.

Full official results were not expected until this evening at the earliest. Most of the vote counting in Brazil is done by hand.

In Sao Paulo, businessman Paulo Maluf of the conservative Social Democracy Party was decisively beating his Workers' Party opponent Eduardo Suplicy, according to exit polls.