A closer look at Rio politics

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I just finished watching Vocação do Poder, a 2004 documentary (PT) that “follows the campaign of 6 candidates (out of 1,100 for just 50 vacancies) to the municipal legislative council of the city of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, in the 90 days preceding election day. All of them dispute their first election, but only a few will be successful.” Read more (PT)

It was definitely interesting to get a bit of an inside look at what the candidates go through. Most seem like “filhinhos do papai” (no shock there) and there are a few subtle instances of vote buying via the trading of favors (again, no shock). The strangest thing, even with my familiarity with Brazilian life, is that the candidates have a singular focus of name/face/number recognition, as opposed to stating what they stand for and debating those points. One voter even says something to the tune of “if you don’t make any promises, I’m likely to vote for you.” I mean, I understand the reasoning (too many promises made but not kept) but at the same time it seems counterintuitive.

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(the 6 candidates from the film)

Another strange thing, from having watched a friend run for vereadora (city counsilor) in Rio, is that she was forced to visually affiliate herself with Mayor Eduardo Paes when making the campaign posters (you can see this in the documentary on the young candidate’s poster which has Cesar Maia’s face on it). The fact is though, she hated the guy and from the get-go wanted to distance herself politically from everything he stands for. And as far as posters and handouts go, they need to be considered visual pollution, and people should actually stop taking accepting them.

All in all, it’s not the candidates that will give the people what they want, it’s the system that needs to be turned on its head so that it attracts the kind of candidates that the people want represting them. My father once relayed to me an important lesson of business which I think should be utilized for politics, too: Don’t trade an act for a promise. In other words, trade an act for an act or a promise for a promise but not one for the other.

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