Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Election Day OPINION (read: not fact)

So lots of people have opinions about election day (last Sunday October 3rd). Mine are not very well educated, though I have read lots and lots and lots about how things work here and I went with Sidnei just to kind of take a look and see how the people were taking in the experience. Here is my take.

First off, let's get all the negative hubabaloo out of the way. I am SO GLAD, elections are over (for the most part anyway...for those that don't know, we will have a second round for the presidency on october 31st..then we will be done..hopefully). The couple of months leading up to the elections are little pieces of papers, cars with speakers playing loud jingles for cadidates which usually consist of repeating numbers over and over so that they stick in your head and won't go away. ALL of the marketing, advertising that go into the elections make me sick. The amount of paper wasted makes me ill. The streets are littered every day for two months. My mailbox was full every day for two months. And all of it went into the trash. And that is nothing compared to how the streets look the day of elections.

The second thing is...WHY???!??? Why Sao Paulo, why would you elect a clown to be your congressman? How embarassing. That is all I have to say about that.

I really enjoyed the day of elections. I was really impressed with the people who did take the elections seriously. Another side note, is here in Brazil voting is mandatory by law. Which I honestly think is great. If you don't vote then you have to pay I a small fee...I think it's 5 reais..about $2.80 give or take...(though with dollar continually falling its probably more on the give side) Anyway I really enjoyed seeing SO MANY people voting. It was madness. Especially in the morning there were LOTS of people. We opted to come back later in the afternoon when it was not so full and it was still busy!

And last but not least, my preference was Marina Silva for President who is part of the Green Party (you know, going against my whole family...arguing politics in another language? HARD..not suggested). I was really surprised and happy she did so well. She didn't win, but she gained almost 20% of the vote..and to me that means people are really stepping outside of the 2 popular parties and are really participating and thinking about who they want to run this country.

Democracy is still very new in Brazil! It's actually younger than I am (founded in 1988 and I was born in '84)! I really enjoyed watching people being able to participate in something that they are truly grateful for. The system is not perfect. People are still learning to trust it and still need to learn that they CAN make a difference. But they are getting there. Let's see what happens on October 31st!


Rebecca said...

So interesting! I like that the voting is madatory. I wish more people took an interest in voting in the States.

Ballerina Girl said...

Great read on the elections here...
I also feel that Marina was a good choice, and her story is unbelievable. I hope she will go far and hopefully one day enact all that she supposedly stands for!

I think the best part of this is the mandatory voting...and they do it on a Sunday when almost everyone has that chance to do what is right. I wish that we had in the US! Also, the fee is a little higher I think, but also if they do not vote, they can not get any legal documents, i.e. passport, work permits, etc!
Excellent way to enforce an opinion!


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Eve said...

It sounds like a carnival! ;)

Eeeww... mandatory voting, in my mind, equals lots and lots of people swaying a vote without ever knowing anything about who they are voting for. But I don't know, maybe it works there.

What I do love - a system many of the states have been adopting - is voting by mail. That way everyone who wants to vote and who has paid attention and decided who they feel will do the best job, has a chance to put their vote in. It used to be so difficult to get away from work before the polls closed (especially if you work on odd schedule) - oh, and trying to figure out where the heck you were supposed to go to vote was always crazy (especially if like me, you live somewhere new every time there's a big election). ;)

Glad it was fun for you!!

Earl said...

Just a little reminder guys: When you are FORCED to do something by your goverment you are no longer involved in a democratic process. In fact many goverments require votes and then one candidate receives +90%. Clearly this is not the case in Brazil but if the goverment can make you vote where do you draw the line? One could argue that a goverment that forces people to act is closer to a dictatorship than democracy. I do beleive we need everyone to participate in goverment but I don't beleive mandate is the best way to achive that goal.

Fiona said...

Very nice, positive post about politics. As a newcomer here I sometimes forget that I'm going to upset people if I bring up politics, (probably feels icky when I ask questions such as, "Why did so many people vote for Tiririca?") but I'm just so interested in it, and i have so much to learn.

Stephanie said...

Earl- I disagree. I don't think anyone in Brazil feels FORCED to do anything. There is still a choice. You don't have to vote if you don't want to, but you do have to pay the fine. And trust me when I say, as many people vote, there are so many that choose not to as well. I believe that it really encourages people to take a more active participation. I also think the majority of people, knowing that they are going to vote, take more of an interest in what is going on. I can't remember on which blog I read it, however, they put it like this (im paraphrasing) they look at voting as a civic duty, much like jury duty, which I really think is the point.

It is walking a fine line. I flat out told my students that I'm not even Brazilian and I am so blatantly embarrassed that Tiririca was voted in, I could hardly stand to think about it. But mostly, people here share that same opinion, so it's kind of hard for them to get mad about it!

Lisa said...

It would be fascinating to watch the political process of another country up close.
Voting is a civic duty and I don't think a fine to forcing you to vote. It is saying you need to use your voice.

Lisa Q

annie valentine said...

Great to meet you! And I wish more people in the states respected that right. I think who don't vote shouldn't get to shop at Target.

Earl said...

Don't get me wrong I beleive more participation is better and from what I can see Brazil does an amazing job of including everyone. However did you know that Brazilians +65 are not required to vote and Brazilians 16 and 17 are allowed but not required?

I think it is fair to say that the Brazilian system of incentives is more inclusive of the younger and poor (b/c they are less able to pay the fine if they do not vote). Natually the results will bear out this bias. A clown/performer with questionable credintials is just one example. Using numbers for canidates to avoid having to read or write is another.

As I'm sure many know South America has had a long history of abusive goverments hidden by perfectly normal systems. I'm afraid the structural flaws in the voting system in Brazil do not allow for sufficent protection from the same type of abuse.

In my opinion I cannot agree with the results if I do not agree with the way the results are obtained. That is my only complaint.

Earl said...

P.S. I'm a big fan of the blog. I have been reading all the Americans in Brazil blogs in anticipation of living here. =)

Krystyn said...

I can't imagine trying to figure out and understand the democratic voting process in another country when it's so new...sure sounds interesting.