Local Politics: Hammer it Home


(an example of a poster/leaflet)

It’s 3PM on a late September day and a car drives by the apartment complex. This isn’t an odd occurrence since I live near a main street. This particular car happens to have large speakers set up on its roof and it’s playing the kind of song that is attractive to young people. Without considering it, I start bobbing my head to the beat while at my desk…then comes the chorus. Strangely, it’s a five digit number that is on a loop.

What I’m experiencing, in actuality, is a local politician’s campaign strategy. Politicians in Brazil each get a number which they need to use to the best of their ability in order to get their constituents to vote for them. These numbers are repeated ad-infinitum as if the only purpose were to implant that number in people’s heads.

A few other strategies are also employed during election time, with only one of them allowing the politician ‘air-time’ to say what they stand for. Another phase of the “remember my name and number” plan of attack, is to hire anyone looking for some extra cash to stand in high traffic areas and hand out glossy leaflets with the politician’s face, name, number and political party on them. The idea, I suppose, is to hammer the message home. Whatever that message might be, I can’t quite tell.

If you’ve ever seen local politician posters on people’s lawns and alongside roads, this also happens here…just multiply its occurrence by a factor of five. Both the leaflets and the posters fill the cities in the form of visual pollution and actual litter. There’s one guy taking a stand, albeit perhaps more in jest.

As for the final strategy, this is seen via television where politicians are given an allotted amount of time to speak their mind (read: make you remember their information for voting). The higher up you are on the political chain, the more time you get on air and when the time comes, there are TV channels dedicated to playing these ads nonstop for days, perhaps weeks.

I’m no fan of politics worldwide thus it’s safe to say I don’t care for any of it. From my studies of other cultures, I would actually say such tactics are utilized throughout the world more so than those found in US campaigns (full-page ads, professionally-produced TV ads with varying levels of “truthiness”, etc). By the way, for the Brazilian who doesn’t vote (“anular o voto”, see comments), even though it’s mandatory here, the fine is just R$3. Now that’s a price I would pay, twice over, in order to skip it all and do my own research so as to make my own decision.

As an aside, not voting can create hassles in other areas of life, which requires one to take a visit or two to a gov’t office to clear (“justificar”) one’s name. See the comments for more. info.

10 thoughts on “Local Politics: Hammer it Home

  1. I have a neighbor who was running for vereador (city council), so I got to see a campaign from up close. At one point, I saw him bring hundreds of campaign posters mounted on wood into his one-bedroom apartment. But, in a city with 100,000 people, he won a seat with less than two thousand votes. All’s well that ends well, I guess.

    You’ve got that wrong about the price of not voting. The penalty is FAR, FAR more than three Reais:

    The real price of not voting comes in terms of the blockades and barriers to a normal life that the non-voter will face after election day. They become people who effectively don’t exist, as far as the Government is concerned.

    Qual a punição para título irregular?
    O eleitor que está com o título irregular não pode tirar documento de identidade ou passaporte, inscrever-se em concurso público, renovar a matrícula em estabelecimentos oficiais de ensino e obter empréstimos em caixas econômicas federais e estaduais.

    Just for a few more examples, if you’re a Brazilian and don’t vote then:

    * You can’t apply for what is analogous to a Social Security Number (CPF),
    * You can’t apply for a passport,
    * You can’t take an entrance exam for university,
    * You can’t take a civil service exam,
    * You can’t renew your matriculation in a state or federal university or other educational program,
    * You can’t apply for a loan at the state or federal banks,
    * Your Social Security Card stops being accepted.

    Without access to a CPF card, you can’t open a bank account, can’t buy a cellphone, can’t get a landline, can’t get get cable television. You basically can’t contract for anything without a CPF. So, you become a person with no identity if you don’t vote in Brazil.

    In terms of state-sponsored impediments and barriers, you would face less impediments as a convicted rapist or murderer in the United States than you face as a non-voter in Brazil. A convicted felon in the USA can still do most of the things above that a non-voter CAN’T do in Brazil, even while the felon is still in jail!

      • I’m not a Brazilian lawyer, but according to Brazil’s Supreme Electoral Court, if the Brazilian citizen required to vote is simply not within the jurisdiction on voting day, then s/he must go to a different voting place where s/he is and on that day and submit a “justification” form (PDF). So, on voting day, the choices are between voting in the place where one is normally required to vote, or going to the polls somewhere else and submitting a justification in that different jurisdiction.

        “No dia da eleição, basta que o eleitor, portando o título eleitoral e um documento oficial de identificação com foto, entregue o Requerimento de Justificativa Eleitoral devidamente preenchido em qualquer um dos locais destinados ao recebimento do RJE.

        Caso o eleitor não entregue a justificativa no dia da eleição, ele deve apresentar, até 60 (sessenta) dias após cada turno da votação, requerimento (formato PDF) dirigido ao juiz da zona eleitoral na qual esteja inscrito, pessoalmente, em qualquer cartório eleitoral, ou pelos Correios. O requerimento deve seguir acompanhado da documentação comprobatória da impossibilidade de comparecimento ao pleito e será examinado pelo juiz eleitoral.”

        As you can see, the form is very simple and the fact that it is submitted away from home is sufficient to demonstrate that the voter had a reason for not voting in his home area. (Or that seems to me to be the logic behind it.)

        However, the form that must be submitted after the election requires explanation of why it was not possible to vote, as well as documentary proof that supports the explanation.

  2. Also, to get a driver’s license in Brazil, you need the national identity document. But, you can’t apply for the national identity document if you didn’t vote in the last election, so effectively a person who doesn’t vote also can’t drive.

    If you’re just a permanent resident of Brazil who doesn’t want to vote here, then you shouldn’t become a Brazilian citizen. If you become a Brazilian citizen, you will effectively be COMPELLED to vote by the above rubric of penalties for not voting. Or, you can go ahead and become a Brazilian citizen and vote like everybody else does.

  3. Small correction: there isn’t a fine for nullifying your vote. The fine is for not turning up at all at your polling station. If you turn up and press the “Nulo” button on the voting machine, that’s fine. It’s equivalent to scribbling on the paper ballot that used to happen in the old days.

  4. BTW, some of the jingles are priceless, like this one:

    I can’t help smiling every time I hear it even though I’m actually embarrassed that the level political campaigning can stoop that low.

    • While I didn’t see any of the US election coverage, I am saddened that I haven’t heard of Havanir’s name before…in the int’l media. Romney would be kicking himself if he had known of such a talent.

      • Check out her mentor, the late Eneas Carneiro. He pretty much invented the “shout your name and number” style of campaigning when he ran for president because he only had 17 seconds of free airtime. It certainly made the Horario Eleitoral Gratuito more interesting. Funny enough, if I remember correctly, he ended up in third place because so many people used him as a “protest” vote.

  5. Pingback: A closer look at Rio politics (documentary) | Eyes On Brazil

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