Will Dilma Rousseff have creative help in her Brazilian administration?

The run-in to the Brazilian elections showed a range of unusual candidates. Will any play a role in the new President’s thinking?

Update

The post was written as the elections began [September 2010]. It adds an unexpected twist to the eventual victory of Dilma Rousseff as successor to her mentor Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva

Unexpected candidates

In Sao Paulo [September 2010] the students were handing out leaflets in the way students have done in elections around the world. But there are signals suggesting more innovative political initiatives in the build-up to the elections.

Some candidates presented themselves in unexpected and unconventional ways. In the UK we have been familiar with self-publicists such as Screaming Lord Such, founder of the Monster Raving Loonie Party. He appeared in countless General Election Campaigns as did a handful of so-called followers. Such had no real expectation of being elected. It was more like a piece of surreal performance art than that of political leadership. But there was also the mayoral candidate who had been the Monkey mascot for Hartlepool’s football team before running (as the Monkey) for mayor and winning.

Celebrity politicans

There have also been celebrities who have gone on to become successfully elected. Glenda Jackson was a global star who became an effective labour MP. Glamorous pop stars have been successful elsehwere in Europe. Although the biggest celebrity politician of all time in many ways is surely Ronald Reagan, closely followed by Arnie Swartzenegger. These were taken seriously as candidates, as have been the occasional porn-star.

Meanwhile in Brazil political hopefuls of various kinds are appearing in the campaign. Maria Luisa Cavalcanti reported for the BBC that Wacky election candidates reveal problems at heart of Brazil politics

“What does a federal deputy do? Truly, I don’t know. But vote for me and I will find out for you.”

This is one of the political slogans of a man who is expected to enter the Brazilian Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of Congress, in the general election on 3 October with the backing of more than a million voters. If the phrase sounds like some sort of joke, perhaps you will not be surprised to learn that this particular candidate is a professional clown. Francisco Everardo Oliveira Silva, or Tiririca (Grumpy) as he is known, started working in a circus at the age of eight in the impoverished north-eastern state of Ceara, and is now a TV comedian.

Eliane Cantanhede, political correspondent at Folha de S Paulo newspaper points out that candidates get airtime, attracting less-informed and disaffected voters. The open-list proportional representation system also encourages such candidates.

Just some fun at election time?

David Fleischer, professor of Political Science at the University of Brasilia, explains that the celebrity and the eye-catching candidates are promoted by their parties hoping to get two or three less-voted-for candidates into office.

Is it all just some fun at election time, or an innovation whose time has come as a result of new social media? The messages from President Obama’s campaign are still being studied around the world. Students of leadership might do well to consider the implications of “the Grumpy vote” for political leaders in the future, far beyond Brazil.

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