[BRASILIA] Brazilian political parties implicated in the massive Petrobras corruption scandal, including that of President Michel Temer, suffered major setbacks in Sunday's municipal elections that put right-leaning candidates ahead in key cities.
Millionaire businessman Joao Doria of the centrist Brazilian Social Democrat Party, or PSDB, won outright victory in the race for mayor of Sao Paulo, Brazil's largest city, a traditional launching pad for national office.
The Workers Party, or PT, of former president Dilma Rousseff, who was impeached in August, was the big loser. Voters punished the party, which ruled for 13 years, for holding the presidency during Brazil's biggest political corruption scandal and an economy battered by the worst recession since the 1930s.
The PT lost four of the five state capitals it had run, including Sao Paulo, the country's economic powerhouse where the leftist party was born. The PT lost two-thirds of the municipalities it won in 2012, dropping to 10th place from third in the number of mayors controlled by each party.
Mr Temer's Brazilian Democratic Movement Party, or PMDB, lost its longtime hold over the cash-strapped city of Rio de Janeiro, which just held what many considered a successful Olympics.
Instead, a conservative evangelical preacher, Senator Marcelo Crivella, will face a runoff against Marcelo Freixo of the Socialism and Liberty Party, or PSOL, a leftist breakaway from the PT, to decide who leads Rio.
The first elections since Ms Rousseff was removed from office were a test of support for Brazil's main political parties as they prepare for the 2018 presidential race.
Mr Doria's victory in Sao Paulo will bolster a likely bid in 2018 by the PSDB governor of the state, Geraldo Alckmin. The PSDB was also ahead in the country's third-largest city, Belo Horizonte.
Sunday's elections were the first held under a ban on corporate campaign financing that was meant to clean up Brazilian politics following the scandal surrounding state-controlled oil company Petrobras that has ensnared dozens of top executives and powerful political figures.
But the new rules, which reduced campaign financing by two-thirds from the presidential election in 2014, instead helped wealthy candidates who were using their personal funds, such as Mr Doria, and candidates backed by Brazil's rapidly expanding evangelical churches.