Brazil’s religious right on the march as bishop elected mayor of Rio

Marcelo Crivella’s victory underscores fall of Rousseff’s Workers’ party and voters’ contempt for entire political system. An evangelical bishop has been elected mayor of Rio de Janeiro, as rightwing candidates across Brazil strengthened their influence at the expense of a decimated Workers’ party.

Despite his past condemnation of Catholics and homosexuals, Marcelo Crivella of the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God won control of the city in a second round of municipal elections that underscored the rise of religious conservatism and the demise of the leftwing party that has dominated national politics for more than a decade.

The Workers’ party lost every mayoral post it contested on Sunday, including two in São Paulo state, where it was founded, and Recife, which was long considered a stronghold. This followed heavy defeats elsewhere in the first round of local elections earlier this month.

It extends a horrendous period for the party, which was pushed out of power this year with the impeachment of former president Dilma Rousseff, and has subsequently seen its founder, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, ordered to stand trial on charges of corruption and obstruction of justice in the Lava Jato (Car Wash) investigation into bribery at the state-run oil firm Petrobras.

Although almost all the major parties were involved in the scandal, Michael Mohallem, law professor at the Getúlio Vargas Foundation, said the Workers’ party (PT) was worst hit and would be severely weakened in the run-up to the 2018 presidential election.

“The PT suffered the most. It has regressed 20 years in terms of its number of votes. That is a direct impact of the Lava Jato operation,” he said.

Disgusted by the revelations of Lava Jato – which implicated dozens of politicians across the ideological spectrum in a massive kickback system – and tired of a lingering recession, voters nationwide showed their contempt for the entire political system. There was a record number of spoiled and blank ballots and many people failed to vote altogether despite a legal obligation to do so.

They also showed a willingness to choose candidates from outside the mainstream. In Belo Horizonte, the mayoral race was won by Alexandre Kalil, a former football club president from the little-known Humanist Solidarity party, who campaigned on a platform of not being a politician.