Sunday, October 31, 2010

Brazilian democracy and elections

The second round of the Brazilian presidential elections will be held today. One hundred and one million people are expected to vote, as voting is obligatory. 

Over ten years ago Brazil introduced the electronic voting system. Many Brazilians boast about the celerity of both the voting system and the result process. The results, it is claimed, will be given in two hours. I however am not impressed by the electronic voting system. I do not believe it was created for the people’s ease but to overcome the problem of illiteracy in voting. It is clear to me it was created to ensure more people vote. 

Illiteracy in many countries is considered a huge problem with the traditional ballot paper. In Brazil it is argued this is no longer a problem. Fourteen million people who are still illerate can resort to their candidates’ pictures. 

Although failure to vote will not result in a civil or criminal case, failure to do so will result in sanctions against you unless you pay a ridiculously small fee of about 1.50 Euro. The sanctions include being ineligible to apply for a passport and other rights normal to citizenship. Many believe that the deterrent of the fee has more to do with the ordeal of facing long bank queues as voting is easier than paying. 

In order to pay your penalty fee you must have a payslip issued on your name by the electoral registry office. Thus, even if you decide to pay your fee online you’ll still have to go there to collect your payslip. 

As if it wasn’t enough there is a drinking ban during the election in Brazil. Initially it was a 24hour ban starting at midnight of the previous election day. Now because bar owners went to court and complained about loss of revenue the courts have decided it will be lifted one hour after the voting period, that is, at 6pm. The results will be disclosed at 7pm, so people will be able to either celebrate or literally drown their sorrows, at least the political ones in a hour’s time. 

Shockingly enough the Public Safety Department claim the ban is to prevent violence between rival political supporters and say the population is pacific. It makes me wonder if what they’re trying to do is to secure more people vote rather than ensuring public safety.