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May 26, 2017

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Ruling party wins Sao Paulo mayor race

SAO PAULO -- Fernando Haddad of Brazil's ruling Workers Party, a protege of ex-president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, won Sao Paulo's mayoral runoff election Sunday, according to official results.

With 92 percent of ballots counted, Haddad had secured 56 percent to defeat his opposition rival and former presidential candidate Jose Serra of the Brazilian Social Democratic Party (PSDB) who received 43.9 percent, the electoral tribunal announced.

Haddad, a former education minister of Lebanese descent, will succeed Gilberto Kassab as head of Brazil's most populous and wealthiest city.

The 49-year-old owes his victory in large part to the overt support he received from both Lula and President Dilma Rousseff, and thanked both during this victory speech.

"Long live president Lula," he said at a raucous celebration, vowing to unite Sao Paulo residents from all walks of life to bring about greater social and economic progress.

Haddad's win in this bustling metropolis of 11 million people was seen as a major success for both the Workers Party (PT) and Lula and came despite fallout from a high-profile political corruption scandal embroiling the ruling party.

Twenty-five of 37 former ministers, lawmakers, businessmen and bankers facing prosecution before the Supreme Court have been charged with corruption over a 2002 to 2005 vote-buying scheme in Congress during Lula's first term.

They include Lula's former chief of staff Jose Dirceu. While Lula was cleared, the scandal nearly cost the 66-year-old his re-election in 2006.

Haddad, who takes office on Jan. 1, has vowed to modernize this economic capital, one of the 12 Brazilian cities that will host the 2014 World Cup.

This will include tackling Sao Paulo's glaring economic inequality, inadequate mass transit system, horrendous traffic, shortage of low-income housing and large drug addict population.

The Sao Paulo race was the biggest prize in Sunday's nationwide municipal runoff vote viewed as a gauge of the balance of power between the PT and the PSDB ahead of the 2014 presidential elections.

The two leading parties have been alternating at the helm of the country for the past 18 years.

In the Oct. 7 first round of balloting, Rousseff's PT did not do so well in some major cities.

But it improved its gains by 14 percent nationwide compared with the 2008 municipal polls.

The centrist PMDB, a PT ally, won the largest number of races — 1,025 — in the first round, followed by the opposition PSDB with 693 and the PT with 628.

In Rio, Eduardo Paes, the PT-backed PMDB standard-barer won a new term, ensuring that he will remain at the city's helm during the 2016 Summer Olympics.

Nearly 32 million Brazilians in this continent-sized country of 194 million were registered to vote to choose the mayors of 50 cities with more than 200,000 people, including 17 of the country's 26 state capitals.

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