We have just had the local and state elections here, the whole thing quite amazes me.
First there is the corruption, it is a way of life in Brazil, as most people are probably aware.
During these last elections, according to one report on TV, 101 political candidates were arrested on corruption charges in Brasilia alone. I have no way of verifying if this is true or not, but judging by what I hear happens around here, I wouldn’t be at all surprised.
It wasn’t long after the last elections, that the winning candidate was removed from office on corruption charges. He was replaced by his deputy, who was then also removed on corruption charges. The candidate who had been runner up was then installed in office, only to then also face charges of corruption. I presume they were found innocent of the charges, as all three were running again in this years elections.
On the days leading up to the elections, men, presumably with something to gain, roamed around the village asking people if they could count on their vote, offering a little sweetener, sometimes a very little sweetener, like R$5. (about £1.75) sometimes more, the most I heard of being R$50. I heard many people talking about how much was being offered, though non are willing to say they have been paid.  Of course just because someone may have taken the money, doesn’t mean they will necessarily vote for that person, it is after all a secret vote.
The second thing that catches my attention, is the level of importance people place on the elections.
Brazilians are required to vote, not to do so can lead to all sorts of problems with officialdom.
Leading up to the elections, the majority of television channels alter their schedule to show the political hour, during which time the various parties can broadcast to the nation. For some weeks in advance of the election, while we were watching the news, the political hour would start. We would get a blue screen with white writing telling us it was the political hour, nothing but that blue screen for an hour. Was it that the parties didn’t have anything to say? The only channels not to show this message seemed to be the shopping channels, I guess nothing should get in the way of consumerism.
As so many people seem willing to sell their votes, it seems a contradiction to then be rallying to the cause, as so many do.
Maybe its partly the lack of anything else to do in the evenings, but during the election, groups get together down at the beach and make a huge song and dance about their particular candidate. Cars with amplified sound systems regularly visit the village, a deafeningly loud sound track using popular music, with the words re written so as to be about the particular candidate, is blasted out. The music goes through a variety of styles so as not to exclude anyones musical taste.
A few weeks back someone in the village was playing Celine Dion at top volume, apparently on a loop as I’m sure I heard all the tracks more than once. Now Celine is not my cup of tea, and I was groaning as she thundered yet again, through the theme for Titanic. It was almost a relief when a political music car drove into the village and, if you will excuse the pun, drowned her out. The car drove around for a bit and then left with a very lively number reminding everyone that they need to vote, just in case anyone had missed the fact that it was election time. As the car drove away, Celine came back, singing “All by my self, don’t wanna be”, well it made me laugh anyway.
©Claire Pattison Valente 2008