RIO DE JANEIRO – The major Brazilian news sources have been dominated by election stories for the last six months it seems, and we’ve covered it as best we can as well. Now in the last week before the election on October 3rd, our focus is on the the process, and the public’s feeling on the street.
Coming from the U.S. perhaps the biggest point of interest in the process is the compulsory nature of voting here. Even if you don’t want to vote for anyone, you have to go and cast your ballet for nulo (null).
Brazilian law requires that all citizens from the age of eighteen to seventy are required to vote in the presidential elections, which has lead to a voter turn out averaging 85 percent, as opposed to 57 percent in the U.S. and 59 percent in the UK. Also interestingly the voting age in Brazil was lowered to sixteen in 1988, although it is optional until the age of eighteen.
The other part of the process that is inspiring is the adding of state-of-the-art biometric technology to its electronic voting system. The new technology will require voters to identify themselves by means of a fingerprint.
All technicalities aside, it’s time for the nation to choose a new leader, and most polls indicate Lula’s successor Dilma Rousseff as the odds-on favorite. The ex-mayor and governor of São Paulo José Serra is still in it to win it however, and accomplished environmentalist Marina Silva has made her mark.
The Rio Times conducted our own presidential election poll, realizing that most of our readers are foreigners living here or abroad and not able to vote in Brazil. The results were more balanced then the larger national polls, bringing both Serra and Silva closer to the leader Rousseff.
The interviews we conducted on the street echoed what some of the national news covered, a sense of weariness in the process, and futility in the outcome. This sentiment is not unique of course, it is one of the reasons only 57 percent of the citizens in the U.S. bother to vote.
It is a little surprising however, given the significant improvement of the Brazilian economy, growth of the middle class, a new found political presence on the world stage, and the upcoming limelight from the World Cup and Olympics. From the outside, it seems to be a very important time indeed.
There is still some time left to ponder the options: