Former Brazilian health minister, Jose Serra, who beat incumbent Marta Suplici to become new Mayor of Sao Paulo, is said to harbour presidential ambitions



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Newly elected politicians switch parties
as big Brazilian mayors eye presidency

By Andrew Stevens, Political Editor

15 January 2005: Brazilian politics, even local politics, is not known for stability and the recent happenings in some municipalities show plenty of signs of consistency here. The main problem in Brazilian local politics, aside from perennial issue of pay and rations for councils or the recent wave of natural disasters in the south, mirrors the instability at national level in Congress.

The problem appears to emanate from the electoral system, whereby candidates can contest an election under one party ticket but assume office under another, should they choose to do so. Since the Congressional elections in 2002, representatives at federal level have switched parties constantly, making the business of legislating somewhat confusing, not least because of the coalition-building required to govern. However, at the local level, a number of high profile last minute defections on the part of both mayors and senior council members have increased calls for reforms to prevent candidates switching parties in such a manner.

The Sao Paulo mayoral contest was the most prominent in the recent municipal elections because of its close-run nature between the frontrunners. Rival city Rio de Janeiro’s mayoral election was a more straightforward affair, with the incumbent Cesar Maia of the right-leaning Liberal Front Party (PFL) winning in the first round. The city was braced for a change of administration following former presidential candidate Jose Serra of the Brazilian social democrats’ (PSDB) victory over the incumbent, the flamboyant Marta Suplicy of the Workers’ Party (PT). However, a last minute defection by Roberto Tripoli, elected as council member under the same PSDB ticket as Serra, saw the city council’s presidency go to an opposition member – Tripoli himself. As this took place during what was supposed to be Serra’s swearing in ceremony as mayor, a televised brawl ensued in the council chamber as furious PSDB members tried to attack Tripoli. As a result, Serra will find governing the city a more difficult task than he had hoped, without a party ally presiding over the city council.

Such behaviour is not limited to Sao Paulo but can be found across Brazilian local government, with voters under the impression they have elected a mayor from one party, only to later discover a shift in allegiance sees them govern under a different label. The new mayor of Maceió, capital of the northern state of Alagoas, was elected to govern for the Democratic Labour Party, only to defect moments before accepting office. In Mauá, also in Sao Paulo state, an electoral court debarred the elected PT mayor from taking office due to irregularities, with his Green challenger assuming office instead as a result of its decision.

Wider uncertainty looms ahead of the 2006 presidential poll, which will see President Lula of the PT seek a second term in office. The Sao Paulo mayoral victory afforded to Lula’s 2002 challenger Jose Serra, attributed to record of PSDB Governor for Sao Paulo state, Geraldo Alckmin, was thought to have paved the way for an Alckmin candidacy on behalf of the PSDB. However, with Rio mayor Cesar Maia’s decision to seek the candidacy for the PFL (currently allied to the PSDB nationally) in 2006, Serra has now hinted at a possible bid himself, having lost against Lula in 2002 after a decade of PSDB rule. Should he do so, he would have to hand over the mayoralty of Sao Paulo to his running mate, the vice mayor, after only one year in office. Such a contest would see the mayors of the two most important cities in the country, pitted against a largely popular president. Having claimed to found gaping holes in the finances bequeathed to him by the departing mayor, City Hall may not be as alluring for Serra as he also might have hoped.


Mayor Monitor allows you to rate the performance of mayors from across the world Full list


Mayor Monitor (MM)
City Mayors introduces Mayor Monitor (MM), which allows residents and non-residents to rate the performance of mayors and highlight their ‘best’ and ‘worst’ decisions. Mayor Monitor uses the widely understood one-to-ten rating system, where '1' signifies an extremely poor performance and '10' ‘an outstanding one. In addition to rating mayors’ performances, citizens are invited to highlight city leaders' best and worst decisions while in office.

Over time, Mayor Monitor will provide a valuable track record of mayors’ successes and failures as well as their popularity among residents and a wider public. The results will be published on the City Mayors website and updated monthly.

The MM list currently includes more than 30 mayors from The Americas, Europe, Asia and Australia Full list