Monday, October 4, 2010

Apparently they don't let Americans vote here

Some may have already heard that Brazil had its first round of elections yesterday. Going forward, all the races where a candidate did not win with over 50% of the vote will be repeated on the 31st with all but the top two finishers eliminated. Of obvious importance and visibility will be the presidential runoff between Dilma Rousseff, the current president's former chief of staff, and José Serra, former governor of the state of São Paulo. Dilma finished first last night with about 46% of the vote, but was not able to command a majority due in large part to a strong performance by the Evangelical green candidate, Marina Silva. It will be interesting to see how Marina's votes are divided between the two remaining candidates in the weeks to come.

A couple of people have asked me about how my friends here feel about election. Among the young people I've talked to here, the most prevalent attitude has been a general discontent with the candidates this cycle, with education topping the list as their most important issue. As such, most of my Brazilian friends reluctantly voted for Serra and Marina; though I do know a handful of die-hard fans of the current government who enthusiastically voted for Dilma.

Here, the process is done exclusively by machine. You only vote for about 6 candidates each election with no referendums or initiatives, but you must make sure you've written down the specific two to six digit code for each candidate beforehand. As you enter each number into the machine, a picture of the candidate pops up on the screen and you push "enter." It's much quicker more entertaining than filling out fifty little bubbles while feeling bad about not having researched any of the city council candidates you're supporting.

Voting is obligatory for all people over 18, optional for 16 and 17 year olds, so I was feeling a little left out by when all my friends had to go vote yesterday. So, I went with my friend Lucas and we asked the officials if I could help him vote. I was denied. All I wanted to do was type in the codes for Lucas and press enter, but they only allowed me to watch. I tried to argue, but the people working there were not convinced by my argument that parents are allowed to let their kids type in the codes for them. Stupid electoral laws.

In terms of "experiencing" the election thus far, I occasionally watch the presidential debates with my roommate as well as "political hour," a daily period of time in which stations are required to give free programming to candidates and literally air nothing but political ads. Yet above all else, my engagement with Brazilian politics has been dominated by one particular form of media: the jingle. Candidates here hire people to decorate their cars or bicycles with stickers and posters of their face, strap huge speakers to the top of their vehicle, and drive around playing highly annoying and sappy songs about their qualifications that are impossible to get out of your head. As a result, we're always quietly singing to ourselves about how bright our future will be once we elect some candidate for senator or governor.

As an amateur analyst, I have specified three fundamental characteristics of an effective Brazilian jingle:

1. It must be played very loudly and very frequently
2. It must be as catchy as possible
3. It should contain as many words from the following list as possible: friend, smiles, experience, growth, progress, family, future, trust, happiness, the right choice, the right vote, the right guy

To demonstrate, I've embedded a youtube video of a jingle from the campaign of Antônio Anastasia, who just replaced the current popular governor, Aécio Neves, of my state, Minas Gerais. This is about all the information you need to understand the lyrics. I particularly like how creepy and weird the video is.

Amigo que é amigo (A true friend)

Minas grew, and may it keep growing
you can choose our future
Anastasia, the right vote to win
we are going to write our history together
A true friend, that we trust
I want this one, I want Anastasia
and our days, will be of much happiness
with Anastasia we will win

He know what progress is, he is a professor
Aécio approves Anastasia for governor
All that needs doing, will be done,
Anastasia as governor, with him I go
He knows what progress is, he is a professor
Aécio approves Anastasia for governor
All that needs doing, will be done
Anastasia as governor, with him I go

My favorite part is when he cites his credentials as a professor to prove that he knows what progress is.

Anyway, hope all is well and everyone hasn't been going too insane because of American-style election madness.


1 comment:

  1. Everyone appears to be high in that video. I won't even get started on the red blazer woman...