Rousseff’s Party Knocked in Brazil City Elections

  • Workers’ Party suffers setbacks after Rousseff’s impeachment
  • Outsider businessman wins election in Brazil’s biggest city

The Workers’ Party of ousted President Dilma Rousseff suffered heavy losses in Brazil’s municipal elections on Sunday, bearing the brunt of voter dissatisfaction with an economic recession and a corruption scandal that have plagued Latin America’s largest nation.

After ruling Brazil for 13 years, the leftist party known as PT lost control of Sao Paulo, the country’s largest city, and won in only one of the 26 capital cities. In another capital, it has one candidate in a second-round vote scheduled for Oct. 30. Even with a victory there, the PT would have half of the four capital cities it won four years ago, when the Brazilian economy was booming.

Yet the Workers’ Party wasn’t the only one to lose popularity due to a sweeping corruption investigation, dubbed Carwash, that has targeted politicians across the spectrum. Many Brazilians have become so disillusioned with the whole party system that candidates seen as outsiders got the upper hand.

“In the aftermath of major corruption investigations at all levels of government, traditional parties have seen the pool of potential candidates with unblemished profiles shrink rapidly,” Jimena Blanco, head of Americas research with Verisk Maplecroft, wrote in a note to clients before the results. “It will be only a matter of time before relative ‘unknowns’ break onto the biggest political stage: the 2018 presidential election.”

Eyeing 2018

Sao Paulo city was taken by Joao Doria, a celebrity businessman running for the Brazilian Social Democracy Party, or PSDB, who says he’s “not a politician, but a manager.” He defeated incumbent Fernando Haddad of the PT.

In Rio de Janeiro, Senator Marcelo Crivella of the Brazilian Republican Party lead the race with support from evangelical churches. He will dispute a second-round runoff with Marcelo Freixo from the Socialism and Liberty Party, who surged to second place leaving behind the candidate of President Michel Temer’s Brazilian Democratic Movement Party, or PMDB. In a speech right after the results were announced, Freixo said he doesn’t want the help of the PMDB. Behind him, supporters chanted “Out with Temer.”

Governing state capitals has taken on added significance since a 2015 ruling by the Supreme Court to ban corporate campaign donations. The parties that prevail in this municipal race will have a strong voter base ahead of the presidential campaign in 2018.

Voting took place without reports of major incidents. Security was stepped up in cities across the country, including in Rio de Janeiro, where at least a dozen candidates have been killed in the months leading up to the election.

Violence against candidates had heightened concern about the growing influence of organized crime in the elections. “There’s no doubt that organized crime has been present in the elections,” Gilmar Mendes, head of the Superior Electoral Court, said in an interview with Globonews on Sunday. “We need to pay attention to that.”

(Corrects name of Sao Paulo’s incumbent mayor Fernando Haddad.)
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