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.