By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – The millions of Brazilian voters who went to the polls on Sunday for municipal elections sent out a clear sign of disapproval to those political parties involved in the recent massive corruption scandals. Traditional political strongholds crumbled while many large cities registered a record number of absentee and null/blank votes.
Traditionally a PT (Workers Party) stronghold, São Paulo state sent candidates from former president Luis Inacio “Lula” da Silva and Dilma Rousseff’s party packing, with only a few candidates from the PT party moving ahead to run-off elections.
“The people of São Paulo rendered an anti-PT vote, against corruption, against mismanagement; it was very clear,” said João Doria, who won in the first round of elections the mayor’s chair in Brazil’s largest city, São Paulo.
Doria, a millionaire businessman from the Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB) ran against current mayor and Lula protégée, Fernando Haddad (Workers Party), winning with over 53 percent of the valid votes. The city, however, registered the highest rate of non-valid votes (absent, null or blank) in more than twenty years, totaling 38.5 percent of the total electorate.
In Rio de Janeiro city, conservative evangelical bishop Marcelo Crivella of the Brazilian Republican Party (PRB) obtained 27.8 percent of the valid votes and will run against Leftist Marcelo Freixo of the Socialism and Liberty Party (PSOL), who obtained 18.26 percent, in the October 30th election. Non-valid votes for the city totaled 42.54 percent, with more null/blank votes given than the total number of votes given to Freixo.
“I think Freixo and I contributed much to the improvement of the political life of our state and our city and taking the PMDB out of the second round,” said Crivella at a news conference after the results.
Of the 26 state capitals, eight elected their mayors in this first round of elections. Among those capitals whose voters will not have to go back to the polls on October 30th are Salvador (Bahia), São Paulo (São Paulo), Palmas (Tocantins) and Natal (Rio Grande do Norte). Of the 92 municipalities eligible for run-off elections (cities with more than 200,000 voters) 37 have already decided the name of their mayor in Sunday’s balloting.
Although voting is mandatory in Brazil, many voters registered their displeasure with current politicians and political candidates by nulling their vote (registering a non-valid candidate number) or leaving ballots blank. Countless choose not to go to polling stations. Nine Brazilian municipalities had over thirty percent of absenteeism rate.
Brazilian voters also punished politicians and political parties involved with the recent corruption scandals when voting for city council members. The PT party for example, lost 45 percent of its council member seats throughout the country in these elections. The party, which in 2012 had the third highest number of council members, (5,067) was able to elect only 2,795 members this year, falling to tenth place among political parties.
Although still the party with the largest number of city council seats, President Temer’s Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB) also lost political room in both small and large municipalities. While in 2012 the party was able to elect 7,825 party members to sit in city councils throughout Brazil, in this year’s election the party only won 7,551 seats.
While the PT and the PMDB were the greatest losers in these municipal elections, the PSDB can be considered one of the biggest winners. The party won fourteen mayoral posts already in the first round of elections and is running for another nineteen top city positions in the run-off elections.