SAO PAULO, Brazil — Brazil’s governing Workers’ Party won control of South America’s largest city as Fernando Haddad was elected mayor of Sao Paulo in Sunday’s runoff municipal elections.
The big election day prize was won after popular former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and President Dilma Rousseff threw their support behind Haddad, a former education minister.
“I thank President [Lula] for the guidance and support. Without it, it wouldn’t have been possible to achieve this victory,” Haddad said in his victory speech. “I thank President Dilma for her support during the campaign and for being there in the toughest moments.”
Haddad’s campaign focused on improving conditions for the poor in the sprawling mega-city, and he captured 56% of the vote to beat Jose Serra of the center-right Social Democratic Party of Brazil. Serra had been mayor but left midterm to become a governor and then mount a failed presidential bid, losing to Rousseff in 2010.
“Brazil has improved greatly in the last 10 years,” said Guilherme Altmayer, a product manager at an educational company who voted for Haddad. “For the first time we’ve had a real concern with wealth distribution, rather than just a focus on economic growth.”
Since Lula was elected in 2002, 40 million Brazilians have risen out of poverty and the country has emerged as a regional powerhouse. It won the right to host the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics, in Rio.
Lula retired with sky-high approval ratings and his handpicked successor, Rousseff, was elected Brazil’s first female president and now enjoys widespread support.
Sao Paulo, Brazil’s business capital, has been run by the conservative opposition for eight years. Haddad will replace Gilberto Kassab of the center-right Social Democratic Party, who took over after Serra.
Brazil has a multiparty system, with a large number of parties in the ruling coalition and a number of opposition parties.
In first-round municipal elections this month, Eduardo Paes of the centrist Democratic Movement Party was reelected mayor of Rio, winning an outright majority.
Brazilian cities in which no candidate won an outright majority in the first round held second-round votes Sunday.
In Salvador, ACM Neto of the Democrats beat the Workers’ Party candidate, as did Roberto Claudio of the Brazilian Socialist Party in Fortaleza.
In the Amazon cities of Belem and Manaus, mayoral candidates Zenaldo Coutinho and Arthur Virgilio Neto of the Social Democratic Party of Brazil beat candidates from the Socialism and Liberty Party and the Communist Party of Brazil, respectively.
In Natal, Carlos Eduardo Alves of the Democratic Labor Party won the mayor’s race, and in Sao Luis, Edivaldo Holanda Junior of the Christian Labor Party was elected mayor.
Bevins is a special correspondent.