RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – October in Brazil means over 5,566 municipalities will be voting to determine mayors, deputy mayors and city councilors – and things are heating up. The first big difference foreign readers should know is that in Brazil voting is compulsory, although the penalty is a small fine and run-around.
As in most democracies, the voting for the local political representatives has an effect on national level policy-making and power-plays. However, another major difference with the U.S. – which is basically a two-party system delineated by shades of polar ideology – where in Brazil there are somewhere around twenty.
The political parties in Brazil seem to be based more on personalities and alliances then strict public policy positions, although they do have orientations (i.e. Partido dos Trabalhadores or PT, the “Workers’ Party”). I’m not a political scientist so I’ll stop with that.
The big news this week in regard to the 2012 elections is that the Ficha Limpa (Clean Record) law has come into effect. The 2010 law declares citizens convicted of a range of crimes; including corruption, drug trafficking and fraud, can not hold public office within eight years of completing their sentences.
The Tribunais Regionais Eleitorais (Regional Election Courts, TREs) identified 317 candidates that are ineligible to take office. That doesn’t mean they can’t campaign though, and keep their name on the ballots. Many barred by regional courts will appeal to the Tribunal Superior Eleitoral (Supreme Electoral Court, TSE) – which will be sorted out only AFTER the elections.
It is a big shift in the political landscape for Brazil as they work to choke out the culture of corruption. Along with the new Lei de Acesso à Informação (Access to Information Act) – where the government published the wages of approximately 700,000 civil servants – change is in the air.
At the same time, the 2012 municipal elections has already had more politically associated deaths and acts of violence than the 2010 elections. Over the past two months, 22 people have been murdered in incidents related to the upcoming elections, over twenty percent more than it was in the 2010 elections.
In related news, for those Americans living in Brazil, the window for registering to vote is closing, and several organizations are available to help with the process. Each U.S. state’s county has slightly different rules so the sooner you look into it the better.