27 October 2014

Brazil's New (Old) President

Well, Dilma Rousseff was slightly ahead in the polls against my candidate, Aécio Neves, she kept the lead and won the election. Another four years of President Dilma. Another four years of the PT, the Workers' Party, with their hands on the till (and I do mean till, not tiller!). More corruption scandals, less economic growth. More promises, less achievement. Dilma campaigned on all the improvements she had made in education, health, transportation, security . . . though for four years people have suffered understaffed and badly-equipped hospitals, brand new ambulances have sat unused in storage facilities, kids have missed weeks of school due to badly-constructed and collapsing school buildings, 20-year old buses have circulated in the major cities in lieu of the new ones sitting and waiting to be "liberated" from some garage for reasons unknown and unknowable. Same old same old.

Dilma Rousseff

But let’s leave politics aside and focus on Brazil’s election and voting procedures, so similar to — yet so different from — those in the USA. Here are some of the differences:

USA — Voting is a right under the Constitution, and many citizens consider it a sacred duty. But you don’t have to vote if you don’t want to, and nothing happens to you if you don’t.
BRAZIL —Voting is a legal obligation. If for some reason you can’t vote, you must explain why, in writing, at your nearest voting registry. If you don’t do that, you will be assessed a fine. If you don’t pay the fine, various other penalties kick in: you won’t be able to get a passport, you may not be able to get a loan from a state-run bank, you won’t be able to work in civil service jobs, and after three unexplained absences your voting registration will be canceled.

The campaign season is seemingly never-ending. A new season starts right after an election, when the losing party begins to plot its strategy for the next election, years down the road. And a campaign costs tens of millions of dollars.

BRAZIL —The campaign season is rigidly controlled. The starting and ending dates for the campaign are set by law. The amount of television and radio time each candidate has — and which, by the way, is FREE! — is set by law. The content of campaign ads is monitored and controlled by the Supreme Electoral Court. On the day before the election all posters, flyers, and any other campaign paraphernalia must be removed, and noncompliance is subject to heavy fines.

"This time is reserved for free campaign advertising"

If you don’t want to vote for a candidate on the ballot, you can enter a "write-in" vote.

BRAZIL —If you don’t want to vote for a specific candidate, you can vote in branco (white, or in this case, blank), which is something of a protest vote. However, it is added to the tally of the candidate who has received the most votes without your help, thus pushing the candidate further into a majority. In that sense, voting branco is an indifferent shrug of the shoulders. Or you can vote nulo (null), which is a better protest vote. In this instance you vote for a party that doesn’t exist, and the vote is not added to any candidate’s tally.

Absentee ballots are mailed in, the old-fashioned way, with ballots inserted into special envelopes which are in turn put into larger, even more special envelopes, until you have something approaching a Russian nesting doll. And then, just to get our goat after all the time and energy we put into getting our absentee votes to the Board of Election of our last U.S. address, it turns out that the absentee votes are counted only in case of a close result!

BRAZIL —If you live outside of Brazil you are still obligated to vote, and you can do so at the nearest consulate. You vote on the same day and during the same hours as voters in Brazil, and your vote is counted immediately, along with the rest of the country.

the famous hanging chads
The result is known hours, and sometimes days or weeks, after the last polls close on the West Coast. The networks are very fearful of calling an election too soon, in case they turn out to be wrong. And the U.S. thinks it’s the country of super advanced technology!

All polls closed at 5:00 p.m. We knew the results at 8:00 p.m. Now that is advanced!

***Dear Readers***
I’ve been told that the videos from last week’s blog, Drone Strikes, were not visible. If you’re interested, you can access them via their links. The first one can be found at:

and the second one, which highlights our property, can be found at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wmu0jJmCie8
Sorry about that.

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