By Lise Alves, Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – With the objective of doing away with corruption in Brazil’s political system, the Ficha Limpa law (Clean Record Law) faces its toughest test in the upcoming October general elections. The law, passed in 2010, makes it ineligible for those who have been convicted of corruption, mismanagement of public funds or electoral violations (such as vote tampering and vote buying) to run for public office for at least eight years.
According to the latest data from the TSE (Tribunal Superior Eleitoral – Superior Electoral Court) more than 25,000 candidates will run in this year’s elections. On Tuesday morning, with only about one-fifth of the candidacies analyzed, 387 candidates have been deemed ineligible to run for public office.
This year for the first time the Ficha Limpa law will affect the candidacies of president, vice-president, governors, senators and federal and state representatives.
“The Ficha Limpa law showed society that when it organizes itself it can change legislation; that it has an active role in the country’s political system,” says Luciano Santos, lawyer specializing in electoral laws. As a member of the Movimento de Combate à Corrupção Eleitoral – MCCE (Movement to Combat Electoral Corruption), Santos was one of the authors of the Ficha Limpa bill sent to Congress.
For the bill to be introduced in Congress, NGOs collected nearly 1.6 million signatures from eligible voters and the support of another three million voters online. At the beginning of July, the MCCE called on political parties to contribute to the improvement of the law and the electoral process by not registering candidates who have been convicted of electoral violations.
“Brazil needs political parties to be the first to defend the trustworthiness of its candidates, calling on these political parties to only support candidates who have not been convicted or have legal impediments.”
Santos says political parties should, in theory, conduct the initial screening of its candidates. “When a candidacy is made ineligible it looks bad for the party’s image, but unfortunately a lot of parties still support these candidates,” he adds.
With many political parties looking the other way, it is up to regional electoral courts and prosecutor’s offices to analyze the candidates’ registration to see if they have been convicted of any wrongdoing that would make them ineligible to run for public office.
The PRE-SP (Electoral Regional Prosecutor’s Office in São Paulo) for example, set up in the beginning of July a special taskforce to analyze the records of nearly 3,300 persons who filed a candidacy request. São Paulo state has the largest number of voters in Brazil: more than thirty million, 22 percent of all the eligible voters in the country.
In 2012 the Ficha Limpa law was applied for the first time to municipal elections, the mayors and city council members. According to the MCCE than one thousand candidacies were rejected that year. Santos expects the number of candidacies rejected by the courts in October’s general elections to be much higher.
“One of the great debates in this year’s general elections will be whether or not a candidate passes the Ficha Limpa ‘test’. Voters want to know more about the candidates they vote will for and not just sit passively by, letting political campaigns sway their decision,” says Santos enthusiastically. “They are now actively seeking out information on the candidates who will represent them.”