Brazil’s Workers’ Party lost control of Sao Paulo city hall in municipal elections on Sunday in a major setback.
With more than 90 percent of the votes tallied, Joao Doria, a millionaire businessman with the centrist Brazilian Social Democrat Party (PSDB), won over 53 percent of the vote, according to official results. He beat out the Workers’ Party mayor of Brazil’s largest city, Fernando Haddad.
Although a second runoff vote had been highly predicted, Doria cleared the required 50 percent barrier, giving him an outright win.
Outsider Joao Doria soundly beat his Workers’ Party rival for control of Sao Paulo
The loss in Sao Paulo represents a major defeat for the Workers’ Party, which has steered Brazil for the last 13 years as disillusioned voters headed to the polls in the first big ballot since President Dilma Rousseff was ousted in an impeachment vote in late August.
Voting took place in more than 5,500 municipalities and will help measure voter anger over a sputtering economy, disgust with endemic corruption and divisions over Rousseff’s impeachment, as well as local issues.
“It’s a very hard defeat for the Workers’ Party,” said Michael Mohallem, an expert on politics at the Getulia Vargas Foundation, speaking with the Agence France-Presse. “The question is how hard it would be – and it was very hard.”
The campaign has been marred by deadly violence – 15 candidates or politicians have been murdered over the past 10 months in the main hot spot, Rio de Janeiro.
The latest victim, Jose Gomes da Rocha, was running for mayor in Itumbiara in the state of Goias.
He was shot dead Wednesday, along with a police officer, while campaigning. The state’s deputy governor was wounded in the attack, but the gunman was killed by security guards.
Supreme Court Chief Justice Gilmar Mendes called the incident “shocking.”
Fears of election violence prompted the deployment of tens of thousands of troops to more than 400 municipalities. The police presence was doubled, with officers guarding the ballot boxes and voting stations.
Militias are reportedly forcing candidates to pay an “election tax” to campaign in areas under their control, with fees running from 15,000 to 120,000 reais ($4,600 to $37,000/4,100 to 32,750 euros).
Voting is obligatory in Brazil, but many disgusted voters said earlier Sunday that they would just as soon stay home.
“What’s the point? There are no alternatives, look left, look right, all the candidates are corrupt,” said Ana da Rocha, a maid who lives on the outskirts of Brasilia, told Reuters.
“Once they get elected, they do nothing but look after themselves, so they don’t have to work again in their lives,” she added.
rs, bik/cmk (AP, AFP, Reuters)