Russomano. That Russomano is the name being bandied around as the next mayor of São Paulo is a major upset for politics as usual. São Paulo is by far the most important municipality and a benchmark for the wider state of São Paulo, which still accounts for some third of Brazil’s GDP. Russomano’s programme is sketchy, populist and highly connected to the bizarre Pentecostal Universal Church of the Kingdom of God.
From an unpromising start, Russomano has made himself the man to beat and his rise has been unleashing some pretty negative campaigning as his opponents get more desperate to unhorse him.
The personal attacks haven’t hit home so far. In the latest polls, Russomano was up there, scoring 31% a full 9% above the most obvious candidate, José Serra, and well ahead of Fernando Haddad, of the governing Workers’ Party (PT) who has the support of the biggest fish of all, former president Lula.
If realized, the upset in the São Paulo race would be an embarrassment for Brazil’s two leading rival parties, the PT and the Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB). The PSDB, already in disarray, looks set to further lose its way after years of losing out to the PT. Serra himself will look truly tainted and his star falling: he was after all the leading opponent of Dilma Rousseff.
So who is this Russomano? He’s best known as a former champion of consumer rights – a sort of Esther Rantzen in the programme Aqui Agora – on Brazil’s popular SBT channel. That helped him get one of the most voted for Federal deputies in 1994 and has been voted back in three more times.
A touchy-feely lover of the camera, Russomano has given little concrete about his programme. In his official presentations, he serves up an ideal of efficient public services with quality in a sustainable and transparent government. Promises are wide-ranging and include healthcare, transport, jobs, security and well, you name it. The lack of focus shows his determination to appeal to the widest possible audience.
More worryingly, his party is sketchy. The small, obscure party Brazilian Republican Party is connected with the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God. Religion is at the fore of this campaign. His most famous quote so far is that he would like to see a church on every corner. That has struck a chord with voters looking to this moral champion of the consumer to clean up politics.
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