A total of 501,923 electronic voting machines will be operating in Brazil’s 5,568 municipalities this Sunday (October 7) when approximately 140 million Brazilians vote for mayors, vice mayors and local legislators (“vereadores”).
In a pilot program, around 7.5 million of those voters will use biometric machines that will identify them by scanning fingerprints.
Brazil’s Federal Election Court (Tribunal Superior Eleitoral – TSE) says it intends to have every voter in the country use biometric machines by 2018. However, experiments with the machines have found that the machines have difficulty registering some people’s fingerprints.
The TSE has announced that it will send federal troops to 268 locations in 10 different states to ensure that the elections are peaceful.
In related new, although, Brazilians will not be voting for senator this coming Sunday, some information that sheds some light in the way Brazil’s politics works.
Out of the 81 senators in the Brazilian Senate, 19 of them are so-called “suplentes,” who presently occupy seats temporarily or permanently.
When a senator runs for a seat in the Senate, he or she runs with a kind of running mate; they form a ticket, so to speak. Suplentes tend to be relatives, friends or financial donors. But sometimes a suplente can be someone to balance a ticket; he or she can even be someone with very different political ideas.
These suplentes are unknown to most voters; nobody votes for a suplente. But they are an important element in the Brazilian political landscape because it is very common for elected members of the Congress to leave to occupy posts in local, state or the federal government.
Here’s the catch: when they do so, they do not lose their seat. It goes to the suplente. And should the elected member decide to return, the suplente leaves and the seat goes back to the original elected member.
During election cycles, it is common for members to take a leave of absence so they can hit the campaign trail. Two recent cases of senators who are on temporary leave to work with candidates in this year’s municipal elections are Valdir Raupp (Roraima), the president of the PMDB, and Katia Abreu (PSD, Tocantins).
Here is a look at the other ways a suplente can get a seat in the Senate. The elected member becomes a minister in the federal government. There is Edson Lobão (PMDB, Maranhão), the long-serving minister of Mines of Energy, whose seat is occupied by his son, Lobão Filho.
And Gleisi Hoffman, a PT senator from Paraná, who is the presidential Chief of Staff (“Casa Civil”) and Garibaldi Alves Filho, minister of Social Security.
Then there is Rosalba Ciarlini (DEM), who left her seat in the Senate after she was elected the governor of the state of Rio Grande do Norte, and Marconi Pirelli (PSDB), elected the governor of Goiás.
Different paths to a seat in the Senate for suplentes are possible: Joaquim Roriz (PSC – Federal District) was expelled for misconduct (“quebra de decoro”) and Eliseu Rezende (DEM, Minas Gerais), a senator who died in January 2011.
An interesting case of how a suplente can rise in the Senate is Anibal Diniz who was the suplente of senator Tião Viana (PT, Acre), elected in 2007.
Then, in 2010, Viana was elected governor of Acre and Diniz took his seat for a term that runs to 2015. Just recently Diniz was elected vice-president of the Senate, substituting Marta Suplicy (PT, São Paulo) who just became minister of Culture.
Marta is a psychologist, television personality and former mayor of São Paulo who has progressive opinions on social issues and is in favor of gay marriage, for example. Her suplente, Antonio Carlos Rodrigues, has strong ties with the Catholic church and opposes gay marriage).
In the Chamber of Deputies the system is different. Suplentes come from a list of the next-most-voted-for. But deputies, like senators, also play political musical chairs so there are more than 30 suplentes serving in the lower house at the moment.