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Monday, 7 October, 2002, 21:58 GMT 22:58 UK
Brazil's vote - fast but fiddly
Brazilian voter familiarises himself with electronic ballot-box
The new system is meant to be simple and fraud-proof
Brazilians had many candidates to chose from at Sunday's elections but were hardly spoilt for choice, if the party names were any indication.

The four presidential candidates were, respectively, members of the Workers' Party, the Socialists, the Popular Socialists and the Social Democrats.


Two tips: the voter should learn how to vote beforehand and he should take the numbers of his candidates with him

Eduardo Capobianco
Transparency International
Given the names alone, voters could be forgiven for hesitating at the electronic ballot-boxes - a system designed to produce one of the fastest results in the Americas.

The fact that nearly one in five voters appear to have again disobeyed the law and stayed at home may have had as much to do with the complexity of the vote - or, rather, the six separate votes - facing this country of 170 million.

Electoral lottery

For one thing, the voters have to tap in numbers for each of their chosen candidates, instead of merely ticking off names.

That is:

  • One number for the president
  • One state governor
  • Two federal senators
  • One state deputy
  • One federal deputy.

Poster for state deputy candidate in Sao Paulo
State deputies get a five-digit ID
Presidential and gubernatorial candidates are a relatively simple matter, having two-digit numbers - such as 13 for presidential favourite Lula.

But numbers for federal deputies rise to four digits, and each voter is required to punch 25 keys in total.

The fact that nearly 10% of the population above the age of 10 are illiterate - one of Latin America's highest rates - hardly helps.

Eduardo Capobianco, president of the Brazilian chapter of watchdog Transparency International, explained to Reuters news agency the official advice to voters on how to vote:

"The electoral court has two tips: the voter should learn how to vote beforehand and he should take the numbers of his candidates with him so he does not forget them."

Saturation coverage

Voters seeking out the differences between presidential candidates from apparently synonymous parties might have considered the broader political alliances each of them represented.

Though, in the case of Popular Socialist Ciro Gomes, his alliance was called the Workers' Front - not to be confused with Lula's Workers' Party.

Ice-seller passes poster of Lula in Rio de Janeiro
Lula's face will be familiar from three previous elections he lost
In the end, much may have depended on the candidates' performance on television.

Electoral law allowed all 18,880 of them free airtime, and all channels had been running about two hours of party political broadcasting each day since 20 August.

In addition, the main channel, Globo TV, had been scrupulously featuring a separate news report on each of the four presidential candidates at the end of its main daily news programme.

But it was the free airtime slots for the lesser-known which provoked the most interest, as the UK's Guardian newspaper reports.

Its correspondent records one candidate repeating his own name non-stop for 30 seconds while another features a lion in his broadcast, purely for colour.

Fast returns

One thing for sure in the vote was that the speed of the results put even the United States to shame, on the basis of its last presidential election.

Computerised ballot-boxes were distributed across the giant country, from the cities to the jungle, and by Monday evening nearly 99% of returns were in.

Only a fraction of the polling-stations had to revert to paper ballots because of problems with the new urns.

The system, with its complex candidate numbers, was first introduced in 1996 and is designed to protect against fraud.

The voter punches in their choice and a picture of the candidate and the name comes up on the screen, for the voter to confirm.

Its buttons are also equipped with Braille for the blind.


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