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Brazil

Rio shifts to the right as evangelist becomes mayor

An evangelical bishop has been elected mayor of Rio de Janeiro. Municipal elections nationwide confirmed Brazil's shift to the right in the post-Rousseff era.

Rio de Janeiro overwhelmingly voted for an evangelical bishop as a mayor, as corruption scandals and ongoing investigations against dozens of government officials have resulted in a resurgence of conservatism in the Latin American country.

Marcelo Crivella beat his opponent, socialist Marcelo Freixo, taking 59 percent of the votes in the municipal runoff election. Rio was one of 57 Brazilian cities holding runoff votes.

The biggest winner of the elections was the center-right PMDB of new President Michel Temer, who, however, is also the focus to an ongoing graft investigation linked to the country's state-run oil company, Petrobras.

"The Temer government's base came out with a big win," said political scientist Fernando Schuler in Sao Paulo. He added center-right forces had made impressive gains across the country.

The Workers' Party, Brazil ex-President Lula charged with corruptionfounded by charismatic ex-president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and later run by his successor, former president Dilma Rousseff, meanwhile suffered heavy losses across Brazil. Rousseff had been removed from office in an impeachment trial in August, which severely tarnished the party's reputation.

Hate preacher?

Conservative candidate Crivella's triumph in Rio is not only the latest example of widespread anger at the Workers' Party, but was also supported in part by the rise of evangelical churches in Brazil. The growing evangelical community accounts for one-fifth of the country's population of around 200 million, while the majority of Brazilians, however, remain staunchly Catholic.

Dilma Rousseff (Getty Images/AFP/E. Sa)

The political scandal surrounding former president Dilma Rousseff has cost the Workers' Party many followers

However, Crivella has a lot to answer to: the divisive candidate once branded Catholics as preaching "demonic doctrines" and also made remarks about homosexuals, Hindus and other minorities in the past, which many have been regarded as offensive. The 59-year-old had previously lost in mayoral and gubernatorial elections.

"I pray to God that my public life, as rocky as it has been, can teach all Cariocas that our time always comes when we do not give up," Crivella said, referring to Rio residents as "cariocas."

A big promise

Crivella has promised to clean up crime and restore law and order in Rio de Janeiro. Despite billions of dollars in investments spent on the Olympic Games this year, the city continues to suffer from derelict infrastructure. Shanties, known as "favelas," line surrounding hill slopes and often lack basic amenities such as running water.

Money for public spending is bound to be scarce, as the vote came amid the country's worst recession in decades, which, coupled with ongoing corruption trials against a host of high-level politicians, has left many voters disillusioned about the political system.

ss/smm (AFP, AP)

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