By Felicity Clarke, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – As candidates make their final pushes for votes in anticipation of Sunday’s presidential, federal and state elections, the Brazilian voting public is faced with the question of who they want in charge for the next four years. For many voters, however, it is not individual policy proposals bringing doubt to their decision making so much as a general distrust of the political machine as a whole.
A day of interviewing on the city’s streets made that much apparent. For Marcio Valera, a 35 year-old Finance Executive from Copacabana, the campaigns on the whole lack any real substance. “There are a lot of candidates and a lot of parties,” he says. “People don’t discuss proposals, it’s more about marketing and fighting between candidates.”
Luciana Meireles, 24, a publicity officer from São Cristóvão also notes the disputes between candidates, saying;”I don’t like the T.V. advertising where they just attack each other”. Another concern for Luciana are the negative environmental effects of the extensive street canvasing; “the flyers generate a lot of trash in the street”, she said.
Many argue that the multitude of candidates and lack of focused political debate can be attributed to the fact that anyone (soon to be anyone without a criminal record) is allowed run for office. While the equality of opportunity this allows is positive, at the same time it undermines the political system, giving people with no qualifications, experience or often even a genuine interest in politics, to stand.
Mateus Vicente, a 21 year-old student and photographer from Barra da Tijuca, also finds it frustrating. “It’s a joke,” he says. “Lots of candidates don’t have experience. They become politicians to make money, not to make a difference.”
Yolanda Barroso, 21, a student and filmmaker from Grajaú shares a similar view, saying; “Politicians need to be engaged and know how to help people. It’s not a regular job.”
The example of Tiririca, the comedian standing for Federal Deputy for São Paulo state, highlights the problem perfectly. Running for the Republican Party, he is winning votes using the line; “What is it that a Federal Deputy does? To be honest, I don’t know. Vote for me so I can tell you.”
The overriding impression given by those interviewed for The Rio Times is a general lack of faith in candidates to fulfill promises or make positive change. Jaime Conceição Silva, 53, a bricklayer from Morro dos Prazeres, speaks with resignation; “I think very little will change, especially for people from the lower classes. It should be shared more but people in power create laws that benefits themselves.”
Ana Cristina Brito, 51, a mother of seven from Guadalupe echoes this lack of belief in the candidates. “Nothing will improve or change so here in the community people often vote for those who promise to raise people’s finances and meet people’s necessities”, she said.
An issue that repeatedly raises its head is the fact that voting is obligatory in Brazil. It is possible to invalidate your vote, but not turning up at all is not really an option.
Luis Neves, 62, a juice vendor in Largo da Carioca argues that; “it’s obligatory, so I’m not really choosing. You just have to choose but so many are corrupt.”
Ficha Limpa, the Anti-Corruption Law, is at least discussed with some hope. Antonio Aquiar de Lima, a 20 year old musician from Santa Teresa believes that “it will bring justice to Brazilian politics, but in the meantime everyone needs to evolve.”
One positive in the Brazilian electoral system, highlighted by Marcio and Mateus, is the direct-recording electronic voting system, arguably the most reliable in the world. The first country ever to implement the system back in 1996, these machines are praised for their simplicity and effectiveness in collating over 200 million votes and minimizing fraud.
All week The Rio Times has been conducting its own Voting for a New President of Brazil poll and so far the results are pretty even amongst the three main candidates. At the time of press Dilma Rousseff is in the lead with 34 percent of the vote, followed by José Serra with 32 percent and Marina Silva with 30 percent.