President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's ruling Workers' Party appeared to have held its ground Sunday in local elections marred by several fatal shootings and the arrests of some 100 candidates.
The shooting deaths of at least seven people and the arrests of 808 others -- including 101 candidates -- marred local elections held Sunday across Brazil that were expected to give a big boost to the country's ruling coalition and President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
A 30-year-old unidentified man was also shot and wounded in the leg by guards when he ignored warnings and tried to enter Lula's official residence in the capital Brasilia, officials said.
Lula was not there at the time, having gone to his southwestern home town of Sao Bernardo do Campo to vote.
The incidents did not have a significant effect on the elections in the country, where 128 million voters were obliged by law to cast ballots, officials said.
The four-year mandates for mayors and municipal councillors in 5,563 towns, cities and villages were up for grabs.
Lula's leftwing Workers' Party (PT in its Portuguese initials) and its 13 coalition partners were expected to sweep many of the bigger urban centers.
The mayors for the three biggest cities -- Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Belo Horizonte -- would have to be decided in run-off elections to be held October 26, however, according to exit poll results released by the Ibope institute.
The Superior Electoral Court said after voting ended that 2,511 polling violation complaints had been registered during the day, resulting in the 808 arrests.
Many of the 101 candidates apprehended were running in the largely rural states of Minas Gerais, Espiritu Santo and Mato Grosso, it said.
Local media reported that three people, including the brother of a candidate running for mayor, were killed in two gunfire exchanges in the northeastern town of Bom Lugar where rival political groups clashed.
In Rio, a man in a western slum was shot for allegedly insulting some of the 5,000 soldiers deployed to keep order in the crime-ridden city Sunday along with 27,000 police officers. Three other people were shot and killed in another part of the city by police who said they were battling drug traffickers.
In the northern town of Juriti, dozens of voters emptied ballot boxes in anger over several would-be candidates being barred from running because of irregularities.
The popularity of Lula, who has a public approval rating as high as 80 percent, was expected to hand a big advantage to candidates running under his political umbrella.
The PT controlled 13 of Brazil's 79 biggest urban centers going into the election and would likely win another 22, analyses by newspapers said.
The allied centrist Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB) was expected to win another 17 or so, while the opposition Social Democrats were expected to pocket around 20.
A political science professor, David Fleischer, said it was possible 600 PT mayors would be elected nationwide -- 50 percent more than in the last local elections in 2004.
The Folha de S. Paulo daily said the PT could win as many 700 municipalities.
"If things continue like this, the opposition is going to disappear," complained an opposition senator, Demostenes Torres, before the elections.
Political analysts said that, if PT's gains are confirmed by final results, Lula's efforts to be succeeded by his current chief of staff, Dilma Roussef, would be reinforced.
Under Brazil's constitution, Lula has to step down at the end of 2010 after having served the maximum two four-year terms.
The former trade unionist has won plaudits from both Brazil's poor and business elite for his centrist policies, which were accompanied by an economic boom driven by commodities exports.
Date created : 2008-10-06