Monday, October 27, 2008

Elections - Finally Over!

I haven't been overly involved in following the political scene in Brasil. But I have never been happier about an election season coming to an end.

Yesterday was the mayor run-off election and marked the termination of all the campaigning. As annoying as I've always found TV campaign commercials to be in the US, Brasil has opened my eyes to an even more obnoxious form of advertisement for those seeking public office. Imagine being pregnant and trying to enjoy a quick 30-minute nap (okay, maybe 60-minute)before you must get on a hot crowded city bus and ride for no less than 45 minutes across town to the school where you will be teaching until 8:30 at night. And just as you find a comfy position on the couch and you're just about to doze off to sleep, a VW van with the back-end full of large speakers with execrable sound quality and then a couple more loudspeakers strapped to the roof comes slowly creeping down your street blasting some horrendous campaign song and possibly joined with a ranting speech of some sort which is so loud that is causes every dog within a 2 mile radius to begin howling and activates the alarm of half the cars parked along the street. And while I was thoroughly awakened and annoyed by these middle of the day VW vans of torment, they didn't stop at sundown. Oh, no this could go on well past 10:00 at night interrupting everything from supper conversation with my Dearest to the latest episode of Desperate Housewives to a telephone conversation with family back home.

And I won't even get in to the parades which blocked traffic, the campaign flag-waving mobs of people hired by the candidates impeding my path through the park, or the gobs of flyers thrown out of car windows the night before election day leaving heaps of litter all over the streets in order to get their name out on election day despite the "no campaigning on election day" law.

I guess what I'm saying is that campaign season is pretty cruddy everywhere . . . and that I would have loved to have only been bombarded with TV commercials and the occasional annoying phone call soliciting my vote.

So last night we knew the announcing of the vote had taken place when we heard eruptions of cheering and chanting followed by a big truck full of speakers at an absurd volume slowly cruising down our street as the newly elected mayor gave a speech of some sort. It was so loud that despite having all of our shutters and windows closed, we were unable to continue the conversation we were having with Eric's Dad over the phone. With the volume turned all the way up, we couldn't hear a single word he was saying. I announced to Eric last night that I didn't know who won the election, but I already disliked the mayor (if only for disturbing my peace last night.)

On a lighter, less crazy-prego-rant note, I have been entertained by the residents' of Belo Horizonte take on this whole election. The last week prior to the election turned into a huge mud-slinging match and the two candidates were described to me this way by one local: 'Well, we have one guy who has been convicted of stealing money while serving as an elected official. Not just accused of the crime, but actually tried and convicted. But the other choice isn't exactly all that much better. He's some crazy evangelical guy whose only concern is the state of the churches in BH.' Hmmm, now, like I said, I haven't been following the politics and have no idea how accurate that summary is, but it cracked me up. And have I mentioned that voting is mandatory if you are over 18 years old in Brasil? Voting is not a right, it is required by law. Although no one has been able to tell me exactly what the punishment is for not voting, I'm told that if you habitually skip out on going to the polls you'll have a heck of a hard time renewing your driver's license and taking care of other routine business. One person equated it to not filing income tax returns - it will eventually catch up with you and potentially get you in a whole heap o' trouble.

I was also thoroughly entertained by Eric's account of his conversation with a colleague this morning:

Eric: So who ended up winning the BH mayor election, was it number 40? (Note: Instead of having a ballot with everyone running for office listed on it, you enter in a candidate's election number into the electronic voting machine. So all the campaign banners and such have the person's picture and voting number on it. Sometimes, it will include their name too - or the name they've chosen to use for the election, like Elvis or Barack Obama or Jorge Bushi or Kung Fu Fatty.)

Colleague: Yes, Marcio won. Why?

Eric: Well, I figured it was him that won because there was a huge party going on really close to our apartment, and then after the results were finalized they had the giant speaker trucks driving down the streets blaring music and some speech. It was pretty ridiculous . . .

Eric: So which guy was this that won, the evangelist or the corrupt guy?

Colleague: I don’t believe it was the evangelist guy, but it wouldn’t matter because he is corrupt as well.

Eric: So why are two known corrupt guys even on the ballot for Mayor?

Colleague: Well it is sad, but there isn’t anybody else, because they are all corrupt.

Eric: Oh


Anonymous said...

Well, I guess it's good the people know what the are dealing with? My goodness I am so ready for the elections here to be over as well! I am so TIRED of them.

Bru said...

Yeah, welcome to Brazil... uneducated people = bad leaders = third world country, poverty, mess. Sad but true. Did you know that only 1% of the population here gets to go to college? You can't expect a informed, fair decision from a population that can barely add 2 and 2.
About what happens when you don't vote (and don't justify): can't run for public jobs, can't get into a public college, can't get a passport, can' get a loan from state banks... and the list goes on. But all the trouble goes away when you pay a fine :)
Have a nice week!

Ray Adkins said...

For a minute I thought you were talking about New England

Dear Bruna,

Believe me, corruption is not exclusive of third world countries...
By the way, didn't Brazil already left that list? I don't think Brazil is still considered 3rd world...
Brazil is not so bad at all, it has come long ways on fighting corruption, it is a long process, it doesn't happen overnight.
We are only hearing good things about Brazil lately, so I am sure there is light at the end of the tunnel!
Cheer up!


Bruno said...

Hi Emily.

The person who told you about the candidates is completely wrong. Marcio Lacerda (the one who won) was never "not just accused of the crime, but actually tried and convicted". He was NEVER tried and never convicted for anything, the other candidate invented this, it´s not true. It´s tipically brazilian, making jokes about everything, and making things look worse than they really are. No surprise nobody respects us in other countries, since WE are always enforcing stereotype... Like this "bru" girl asking if you knew 1% of the population goes to college. Actually, it´s around 13%, and in cities like Belo Horizonte, about 30%. Not the greatest number, but far from 1%.

Voting is mandatory, but:
- You can vote "branco" or "nulo"
- If you can´t vote (say, you are in other city) you can go to any voting section (usually they are in schools) and get a document there. That proves you couldn´t vote because you were not in your city, and that´s it.
- In any other situation, if you just wanted to stay home, you just have to go to the local Tribunal Eleitoral, any day you want, and pay R$3,50... Yes, three reais.

So, you "can´t get a passaport", but once you need a passport, you pay that "huge" fine, and in the next day you can get it.

Bruno said...


Maybe the person was talking about the "crime" commited by Lacerda in the 60´s, when he was part of a leftist group against the dictatorship. It´s a completely different context, totally different historic moment... He was arrested as part of the "guerrilha", during the regime´s repression, as many important leftist politians were, including the mayor Fernando Pimentel, and the nº 2 leader in Lula´s government: Dilma Rouseff. They were "presos políticos", not "presos comuns". It´s not like he stole public funds last year. It makes me sad that people don´t explain those things well to you.

AcesHigh said...

Voting is considered a citizen´s duty, not a right in Brazil. There are few developed countries with mandatory voting: Australia, Belgium and Italy.

Notice that Chile, Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina, three southern american countries which had the worst dictatorships where citizens could not vote, now enfore voting.

ps: the fine for not voting is ridiculous. Its like R$5 only. Its cheaper than the fuel you spend for going to vote or going to pay the fine.