By Sibel Tinar, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – Though still a long way from reaching a conclusion, the leading candidates in the presidential election race have already begun to accumulate fines for illegal campaigning and propaganda.
The Tribunal Superior Eleitoral (TSE, Supreme Electoral Court), which is in charge of overseeing the campaign practices of the candidates, so far has fined Dilma Rousseff of Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT, Workers’ Party) seven times, and José Serra of Partido da Social Democracia Brasileira (PSDB, Brazilian Social Democratic Party) three times for breaching campaigning laws.
The majority of Dilma’s and all three of Serra’s fines are for early propaganda, as the Electoral Law prohibits campaigning and commercials until the last three months before the elections, which is scheduled for October 3rd. Both candidates have been accused of illegal propaganda in different states before the end of June, when the campaigns officially began.
Dilma has accumulated a total of R$33,000 in fines, for five incidents involving early campaigning, one for using the free time allotted for political party commercials on TV and radio networks in order to promote herself as a presidential candidate, and another for the installation of an outdoor sign at the size of 23 x 25 meters. The maximum size allowed for propaganda materials is four square meters, in order to give equal opportunity to all candidates and parties, regardless of their economic weight or political power.
Serra, on the other hand, was fined a total of R$15,000 for making campaign-related promises in different events he attended in the states of Bahia and Santa Catarina in May.
Marina Silva of Partido Verde (PV, Green Party), despite initially getting accused for early propaganda in the state of Rio Grande do Norte, was later cleared of all charges. The accusation was made on the grounds that a banner with Marina’s picture and the words “Marina is the face of Brazil” was used at an event in which she was given honorary state citizenship; however since there was no proof that she was aware of the banner’s existence, she was subsequently absolved.
Despite the strict interpretation of the Electoral Law with regard to campaign propaganda and the multitude of resulting charges and fines, a recent study revealed that only four percent of the fines are actually paid, as the system allows for countless appeals, motions and delays.
The latest opinion polls put Dilma in the lead among the presidential candidates, with one poll showing that she has 41 percent voter support, compared to Serra’s 33 percent, while another gives her a smaller lead, with 37 percent to Serra’s 36 percent, thus statistically tying the two candidates due to the poll’s error margin.
Marina Silva, on the other hand, has been maintaining a ten percent support rating, with another tenth of voters remaining undecided, and four percent planning to vote blank, while the other seven candidates each have less than one percent of declared voter intentions.
The polls also reveal that Dilma holds a clear lead among women voters, as well as generally in the states of Rio de Janeiro, Bahia and Pernambuco, while Serra has been leading in the more affluent Southern states of Rio Grande do Sul, Santa Catarina, as well as in São Paulo, of which he was the governor until he resigned in April to become a presidential candidate.