Opinion, by Michael Royster

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Municipal elections were held throughout Brazil last week and the results were, generally speaking, unsurprising, although there were definitely some upsets; happily, there are now a few more Seeming Weirdnesses that demand explication. The Curmudgeon, as always, is ready willing and able to take note of all this, starting with the trivial.

The Curmudgeon, also known as Michael Royster
The Curmudgeon, also known as Michael Royster.

Seeming Weirdness Number 4 is the astonishing fact that, of the almost 2,000 candidates for “vereador” in Rio, 41 received no votes at all. That’s right, forty-one people who enrolled as candidates for election didn’t even vote for themselves! What possessed (or induced) them to become candidates? Don’t ask, don’t tell.

Seeming Weirdness Number 5 is the strange effect the “party list” system has upon voters. In Rio, one Marcelo Piuí was re-elected “vereador”, although he only received 6,015 votes and there were 44 candidates who received more votes, but were not elected. The Curmudgeon, who once studied number theory, believes this really weird result is because his party (PHS— the Humanistic Solidarity Party — we are not making this up, cross our collective heart and hope to die) is working in base eight, whereas the others are all in base ten. Or is it twelve? Don’t ask, don’t tell.

Seeming Weirdness Number 6 is “void” votes. The official election site shows lots of counties where a huge number of votes for mayor were counted as void, largely because they were cast for candidates who have been declared ineligible by the electoral court system, by reason of alleged prior criminal and electoral illegalities and irregularities.

Take Petrópolis, happily ensconced in the temperate climate upwards of Rio, which is shown as having 35 percent void votes. No candidate won a majority of the “valid” votes. Because Petrópolis has more than 200,000 registered voters, this means there must be a run-off election on October 28th between the two top vote-getters, one with 52,000 votes and the other 45,000.

Seems straightforward, except that there’s this nasty little mathematical conundrum — the total number of void votes was more than 68,000. Most of these went to a candidate who would have finished second, and therefore should be in the run-off election, excluding the candidate with 45,000 votes. There are now three candidates working the streets for a two-candidate election. If no decision is taken by the TSE before October 28th, what will happen?

In over a dozen counties in the State of Rio, including a well-known destination for weekend Carioca sojourners, Cabo Frio, the “void” votes outnumbered those of the “winning” candidate. Worse yet for Cabo Frio, the “winning” candidate has also had his eligibility challenged in court. What happens if both candidates are eventually declared ineligible? Cabo Frio will have a mayor who received fewer than ten percent of the votes cast! Is that right?

Similarly, consider Campos dos Goitacazes, the electoral redoubt of Antony Garotinho’s wife Rosinha, a former Governor of Rio de Janeiro State. She was a successful candidate for Mayor, winning almost seventy percent of the valid votes. She had been declared ineligible, but she obtained a court order guaranteeing her right to run. So, what happens if Rosinha loses her appeal? Campos will have a mayor with fewer than 25 percent of the votes cast! Is that right?

To close, the Curmudgeon will ask a serious question: if people really do want to vote for someone they suspect has violated criminal or electoral laws, why shouldn’t they be allowed to do so?


Michael Royster, aka THE CURMUDGEON first saw Rio forty-plus years ago, fetched up on these shores exactly 35 years ago, still loves it, notwithstanding being a charter member of the most persecuted minority in (North) America today, the WASPs (google it!)(get over it!)


  1. Why, Mr Royster?
    Because that’s not moral (and luckily illegal too).
    The system results in some weirdness due to the corrupted politics and not because it is faulty by bad engineering.
    Meanwhile, dear sir, you raise interesting questions and unfortunately you have a point.
    Kind regards.


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