Ex-‘Apprentice’ host tipped to be next São Paulo mayor

Anti-Workers’ Party climate in Brazil puts João Doria in the driving seat ahead of vote

Hundreds of workers take part in a demonstration called by several trade unions on Paulista Avenue in Sao Paulo, Brazil on September 22nd, 2016. Photograph: Miguel Schincariol/AFP/Getty Images

Hundreds of workers take part in a demonstration called by several trade unions on Paulista Avenue in Sao Paulo, Brazil on September 22nd, 2016. Photograph: Miguel Schincariol/AFP/Getty Images

 

It is not just in the United States that a former host of The Apprentice is gunning for electoral success.

In São Paulo businessman João Doria jr, who once fronted the Brazilian version of the show, is the favourite heading into Sunday’s vote on who should become the next mayor of South America’s biggest city.

The decision is one of 5,570 being held across Brazil to elect new mayors and municipal councils in what is the first test of the mood of voters since the impeachment of president Dilma Rousseff last month.

Her Workers’ Party claims her removal amounted to a coup and is calling for a new general election.

Instead, it will have to make do with local ones, which if the polls are correct, will still serve to demonstrate how badly Rousseff’s economic incompetence and a series of devastating corruption scandals have damaged her party.

Sunday night is expected to be a grim one for the party’s activists and should serve to soften calls for a general election among all but the most masochistic of them.

One of the party’s main victims looks to be Fernando Haddad, the mayor of São Paulo. Polls show him stuck in fourth place, barely in double figures, and almost out of time to force his way into a likely run-off round.

His broadly progressive and relatively scandal-free four years in office are expected to count for little in the current anti-Workers’ Party climate.

Command

This has all helped leave Doria in the driving seat. Despite never having held elected office before, he is now the front-runner to take charge of a metropolis with almost 12 million inhabitants and command Brazil’s third-biggest budget after the federal and São Paulo state ones.

Though not quite as rich as Donald Trump or anywhere near his league when it comes to spewing hate and falsehoods, there are few reasons to believe the outsider, who like The Donald plays up his business success, represents the political renewal many Brazilians say they want after the scandals of recent years.

Considering that he was an enthusiastic supporter of impeachment and has accused the Workers’ Party of “introducing” corruption into Brazil, it is somewhat unfortunate for his Social Democracy Party of Brazil that even before this Sunday’s vote public prosecutors are investigating claims that among other irregularities Doria used his personal fortune to buy votes in his party’s primary contest.

This was marked by brawls at voting centres, accusations, investigations and a split in the party’s ranks in the city. The rancour was the result of the party’s two biggest egos once again colliding.

Prestige

Doria’s candidacy was rammed through by São Paulo state governor Geraldo Alckmin.

He wanted to prevent party stalwart Andrea Matarazzo getting the nomination and potentially winning the election because Matarazzo is close to Brazil’s new foreign minister, José Serra.

A win for Matarazzo risked boosting Serra’s prestige within the party at the expense of the governor’s just as the two furiously position themselves ahead of general elections set for 2018.

Both men want to be president. Both want to run as the candidate of the Social Democracy Party of Brazil. Both are willing to rip the party apart to get the nomination.

Having seen Doria best his friend, Serra convinced Matarazzo to quit the Social Democrats and join the Social Democratic Party (no relation).

From there, he has teamed up with another defector becoming, with Serra’s encouragement, the running mate of Marta Suplicy, mayoral candidate of the catch-all Democratic Movement of Brazil Party, her new political home after quitting the Workers’ Party.

Marta, as she is known, was once one of the Workers’ Party’s most high-profile figures.

Though she represented the party as congresswoman, senator, minister and, back at the start of the millennium, mayor of São Paulo, she now claims she was never a leftist.

Polls show her in a battle for second place and the right to contest a run-off with Celso Russomanno, another television personality.

Given these are the main candidates in the biggest and most important race taking place on Sunday, it is little wonder that less than a third of Brazilians are currently enthusiastic about democracy.

In the place of offering renewal after impeachment for many Sunday’s vote only serves to confirm that for many Brazilians politicians are all farinha do mesmo saco – flour from the same sack.

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