Brazil's re-elected President Dilma Rousseff has promised to reunite the South American country and revive a stagnant economy after narrowly winning re-election for a second term.

The former leftist guerrilla called for unity on Monday in her victory speech and promised to listen to voters' demands for change after a record 26.1 percent of voters abstained.

"This president is open to dialogue," she told cheering supporters in Brasilia.

"This is the top priority of my second term."

Rouseff, 66, spoke alongside two-term predecessor Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who Brazilian media predict will have a key role in reshaping her new team.

After a bitter campaign that largely split the country between the poor north and the wealthier south, Rousseff won 51.6 percent of the vote to 48.4 percent for Aecio Neves, the closest margin of victory since 1945.

The race was widely seen as a referendum on 12 years of Rousseff's Workers' Party (PT) government, with voters weighing the party's social gains against Neves's promise of economic revival.

Despite her win, the outlook has darkened for Rousseff, with stock markets reacting negatively to her win.

Volatile markets

Trading on Monday was volatile, with the Brazilian real falling three percent against the US dollar and the Sao Paulo-based Bovespa stock exchange down four percent.

Brazil, the world's seventh-largest economy, has already endured recession this year, with the business world growing hostile to Rousseff.

Rousseff, an economist by training, has defended her management of the economy, insisting it increased wages and brought unemployment to an all-time low of 4.9 percent.

But after four years of sluggish economic growth, she has admitted her own report card had to improve.

"I want to be a much better president than I have been to date," she said.


ANALYSIS FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT

Gabriel Elizondo in Belo Horizonte

It was billed as one of the closest and most unpredictable elections of modern times, and it delivered. It was simply historic; an election political junkies in this country will be talking about for decades to come.

A few things stuck out for me:

In 2010, Rousseff won by 12 percent and 12 million votes. On Sunday, she won by 3 percent and 3.5 million votes, the narrowest presidential victory in Brazil’s history. The opposition PSDB party has made great strides in the past four year, as Neves defeated Rousseff by 6.8 million votes in important Sao Paulo state.

But the opposition failed to make inroads in the populace, economically growing northeast of the country.

Here’s a troubling number for you: In an election decided by 3.5 million votes, 37 million Brazilians either didn’t vote or voted for nobody. Perspective: That’s about two Canada’s.

If the opposition could have just got a fraction of those people to the polls on their side, they could have won easily. But they didn’t. They’ll have themselves to answer to on that. Likewise, Rousseff now finds herself governing a country that is largely shrugging its shoulders at her.

Give Rousseff credit, she was battered and bruised but managed to prevail sticking to her message focus on the poor and lower middle class. Victory in politics is all that matters, and she got it. Give Neves credit for coming so close. Just two months ago – an eternity in this country – there were rumours he’d drop out as he was polling so low. He's an opposition candidate, and mainstream and modern.

The opposition has a lot of good to take away from this election once they recover emotionally.

But Rousseff has the presidency, if not a mandate. Balancing both might be even more difficult than winning.

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Source: Al Jazeera and agencies