Municipal elections in Brazil provide welcome news for President Rousseff

Voters in Sao Paulo, Brazil
SAO PAULO, Brazil – Municipal elections throughout Brazil on Sunday saw Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes easily reelected, while in Sao Paulo two mayoral candidates faced a second round runoff.

Paes, a popular incumbent who won with an outright majority, will serve as mayor as Rio hosts the 2016 Summer Olympics. He is a member of the centrist Democratic Movement Party.

In Sao Paulo, South America’s largest city, election results left Jose Serra of the Social Democratic Party and Fernando Haddad of the governing Workers’ Party looking at a second round of voting Oct. 28.

For most of the election season, pollsters watching the Sao Paulo race predicted Celso Russomano, a television personality widely believed to be backed by evangelical Christian churches, would fair well with voters. Russomano, who continually denied any links to the churches, faced political attacks in the last weeks of the campaign and finished in third place Sunday.

Brazilians voted largely to keep the major parties in charge of their cities, providing welcome news to President Dilma Rousseff of the Workers’ Party.

There is a relatively broad consensus between the main parties in Brazil. Most support a moderate, social-democratic development plan, and many Brazilians are optimistic they are on the right path, after a decade in which 40 million people rose out of poverty and the country won the right to host the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics, in Rio.

Rousseff is popular two years after being elected, but Workers’ Party officials were concerned that convictions of high-level party members by the Supreme Court in connection with the “big monthly payment” vote-buying scheme tied to former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s presidency would hurt the party’s chances on election night.

In Belo Horizonte, Brazil’s third-largest city, Workers’ Party candidate Patrus Ananius barely missed forcing a second round with incumbent Marcio Lacerda of the Brazilian Socialist Party, who was reelected.

“There was a negative effect from the ... scandal, but I’m not sure how big it was,” says David Fleischer, a political analyst at the University of Brasília. “Not big enough to stop it from being more or less a good day for Dilma.”

For Antonio Rodrigues, a 53-year old security guard in Sao Paulo, improvements in the country in recent years outweigh the problems.

“I can’t say anything bad about Lula. He did so much,” he said. “OK, so some people in his party took their piece of the pie. I probably would too. That’s politics.”

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-- Vincent Bevins

Photo: Voters check a list of candidates before casting ballots in municipal elections in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Credit: Andre Penner / Associated Press 
 
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