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The Exasperating Rules and Fine Print of Brazil’s Political Campaigning

Candidate to council member in São Paulo Elections in Brazil are tightly controlled by the Federal Election Board (Tribunal Superior Eleitoral – TSE, also known as Justiça Eleitoral), which, as the name in Portuguese suggests, is a court system. There are a series of norms and procedures that must be followed by voters, political parties and candidates, as well as people who work for candidates in their campaigns.

Here is a quick look at what can and cannot be done in this year’s October midterm elections (“eleições municipais”) when only mayors and seats in local legislative assemblies (“vereadores”) are in play.

The first vote takes place on October 7, and in cities with populations of over 200,000, a runoff election will take place on October 28, if necessary.

Internet

Allowed: Parties and candidates, after informing the Justiça Eleitoral, are allowed to have official websites using servers in Brazil. They can run campaign ads using blogs and social sites, such as Orkut, Facebook, Twitter, along with messaging.

It is also allowed to send emails, as long as the voter has the option to unsubscribe. Newspapers and magazines are allowed to reproduce articles on their websites.

Not allowed: to place or run campaign ads on corporate sites, whether they are for profit or nonprofit, or run campaign ads on government sites.

T-Shirts, Key Rings, Hats, Pens and campaign merchandise in general

Allowed:  The sale of these items by political parties or colligations as long as they do not have the name and number of candidates or the office he or she is running for.

Not allowed: The manufacture, use or distribution of these items by candidates. Any other material of this type that gives a voter an advantage is also prohibited.

Political Rallies

Allowed: They may take place until midnight October 5. Public announcement system may be used. Bands (“trio elétrico”) must remain stationary, playing only jingles and messages for candidate.

Not allowed: Shows with presentations of popular artists, paid or not, to animate the audience.

Loud Speakers

Allowed as long as they obey certain rules.

Not allowed to be used closer than 200 meters to public buildings.

Marches, parades and motorcades

Allowed: Until October 2. Can distribute printed material and use sound cars, but must remain distant 200 meters from public buildings.

Not allowed: Use of sound cars to turn a motorcade into a political rally.

On election day: Any campaigning must be individual and silent, limited to distribution of pamphlets and stickers. Banners can be used.

Easels, Tripods, Trestles, Dolls, Posters and Banners

Allowed: May be used along public roads as long as they are placed so as not to impede the movement of traffic and people.

Not allowed: Cannot be placed where government permission is necessary, or in locations of common use, that is, lamp posts, viaducts, overpasses, bridges, bus stops. This prohibition also includes trees, walls, fences and construction sites.

The Justiça Eleitoral considers “common use areas” (where all political ads are prohibited) to also include cinemas, clubs, stores, malls and shopping centers, churches and places of worship, stadiums – even though they may be privately owned.

Banners, placards, posters, painting and inscriptions

Allowed only on private property. Does not need authorization by Justiça Eleitoral.

Not allowed if it is paid for. This is advertising that is supposed to be spontaneous and free.

Distribution of printed material

Allowed until 10:00 pm on the day before the election. Authorization by municipal or Justiça Eleitoral is not necessary.

Not allowed to contain more than candidate ad. Must also contain registration numbers of printer and the person responsible, along with size of circulation. On election day it is prohibited to distribute printed material or to engage in any type of political campaigning.

Billboars

Not allowed, period. Use of billboards is subject to fines.

Newspapers and magazines

Paid ads are allowed up to two days before the election. Opinion poll results can be printed as long as they are not paid ads.

There are limits on the size and amount of ads. It is not allowed to publish more than ten ads in any one vehicle and they cannot be larger than one-eighth of a page in newspapers or one-fourth of a page in magazines. It is also mandatory to print, in a visible place, the cost of the ad.

Radio and television

The only campaign ads permitted are those “sponsored” by the TSE, that is, free and public (“propaganda eleitoral gratuita”) that will be run for 45 days before the election (from August 21 to October 4). Although the ads are free to candidates and political parties, they cost the government millions.

Broadcasters are not permitted, during the election period, to do man-on-the-street interviews. They are also prohibited from manipulating data.

ABr

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