To start off I will run through the basics:
-Brazil is a democracy and has a similar set-up to the United States. There´s a president who is elected every four years by the general public. The current president is Lula, a member of O Partido dos Trabalhadores (The Worker´s Party).
-There are 26 states, plus a Federal District, and each one has a governor, who is elected at the same time as the president. My state is called Minas Gerais, and the new governor is Antonio Anastasia of O Partido da Social Democracia Brasileira (Brazilian Social Democrat Party).
-There is a national and state congress, and senators are elected along with everyone else.
-You can vote at the age of 16 here. It becomes manditory once you turn 18.
-The top three presidential candidates are/were:
- Dilma Rousseff, Lula´s hand-picked successor, also a member of o Partido dos Trabalhadores.
- Jose Serra, of o Partido da Social Democracia Brasileira, and
- Marina Silva, of o Partido Verde (the Green Party).
Since no one received a majority of the votes, the top two candidates, Dilma and Serra, will go into round two. Voting is scheduled again at the end of this month and either Dilma or Serra will be elected president after another month of campaigning.
An important thing to note about Brazilian political parties is that there are a lot of them, and power can shift among many of them. One of the biggest differences I have noticed between Brazilian and American politics is that there is a lot less partisianship in Brazil. Because voting is mandatory, peope are forced to take the time to really learn about a candidate and vote beyond political parties. Each candidate is assigned a number, and the voter must know the number in order to place their vote. This is another convenient way to make people do at least some research about the candidates. The other thing that I have noticed is that people here openly talk about who they are voting for--something that is kept very private in the United States, people being afraid that the information could be used against them as some huge personal judgement. In Brazil, it's not necessarily party versus party, rather than issue versus issue. Hey America, let's take note of this.
I was fortunate enough to be able to go to through the actual voting process with my host family. Similar to the U.S., you are assigned a location to vote based upon where you live. They split you up even further once you arrive based upon your name. I went with my host mom and sister to a classroom (voting was being held in a technical college) where there was one booth set up. Voting was done electronically this year, which greatly sped up the process. We had a list of the numbers of the candidates and all you had to do was enter in the numbers in the booth and you were done! We had cast our vote in about 2o seconds! Afterwards we went to meet up with my host dad who was still waiting in line and I was able to vote a second time with him.
Electronic voting is a very convenient method of voting. Not only is it fast while you are actually voting, but the results are announced much faster as well. Only about 45 minutes after the polls closed we knew who the new governor of Minas Gerais was. It took longer for the presidential results to come together because the Amazonian states had voted by paper, and their ballots had to be counted. By nine o'clock that night we learned that none of the presidential candidates had received a majority vote and that, as a result, there would be a second round.
Over all, I found the whole process incredibly interesting. I look forward to comparing my voting experience here with voting back in the United States (I am missing my first election year as an eighteen-year-old back in the US).
As for Decision 2010 here in Brazil, there is still one more decision to be made. I am sure I will have some more political comments after election number two. For now, tchau e beijos do Brasil.