Brazil’s Workers’ Party on Sunday lost control of Sao Paulo city hall in a nationwide municipal polls rout that saw the once-dominant leftist force punished by voters angry at recession and corruption.
In an emphatic outcome, the Workers’ Party mayor of Brazil’s biggest city, Fernando Haddad, was trounced by Joao Doria from the centrist PSDB.
A second round runoff had been widely predicted, but Doria cleared the required 50 percent barrier with 53 percent of the vote, meaning he won outright.
The loss of Sao Paulo headlined a dark day for the Workers’ Party, which shaped Brazil for the past 13 years, but risks freefall as Brazilians shift to the right ahead of 2018 presidential elections.
“It’s a very hard defeat for the Workers’ Party,” said Michael Mohallem, a politics expert at the Getulio Vargas Foundation. “The question is how hard it would be — and it was very hard.”
The elections for mayors and city governments across 5,568 municipalities in Latin America’s biggest country were the first since former Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff of the Workers’ Party lost the presidency in a bruising impeachment battle in August.
They also come as Workers’ Party founder and former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva faces corruption charges that could sink his already flagging political career.
In Rio de Janeiro, second in size to Sao Paulo, the result was more mixed.
The first round was won by Marcelo Crivella from the socially conservative Brazilian Republican Party, considered the political wing of the wealthy evangelical Universal Church of the Kingdom of God.
However, Crivella, whose billionaire uncle founded the Universal Church, got only 28 percent of the vote and would face off on Oct. 30 against Marcelo Freixo from the leftist PSOL, who got 18 percent.
Brazilians want change as they struggle through a devastating recession and the fallout from a massive embezzlement and bribery scheme centered on the state oil company Petrobras.
“The elections are our chance to change this scenario,” said accounting student Wemerson Guimaraes, 21, as he voted in Rio.
In Sao Paulo, retiree Clara Nunes, 64, said that “with new politicians coming in, the situation could get better.”
Among the earliest to cast a ballot in Sao Paulo, which is also Brazil’s financial powerhouse, was Rousseff’s post-impeachment replacement, Brazilian President Michel Temer from the center-right PMDB party.
Temer, who is deeply unpopular and was booed at the opening ceremony of the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in August, abruptly changed his schedule to vote two hours earlier than scheduled — reportedly to dodge protesters.
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