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Close to 3,000 Political Candidates Challenged in Court in Brazil

July 19th, 2010

This is not an official number, but it’s been reported that in Brazil there have been 2,776 challenges to political candidate registration around the country. Official or not, it demonstrates the size of the problem facing Brazilian electoral courts as they decide who is eligible to run for office in the October general elections.

2,776 is more than 10% of the estimated 21,500 politicians who attempted to register as candidates. Many of the challenges are bureaucratic – problems with the paperwork, so to speak.

But, on the other hand, this time something has changed the situation on the ground. It is the Ficha Limpa (Clean Criminal Record) law that makes politicians with certain types of convictions ineligible to run for office. The overwhelming majority of challenges are based on Ficha Limpa.

The head of the Federal Election Board (Tribunal Superior Eleitoral – TSE”), Ricardo Lewandowski, who has another job as a Supreme Court justice, says that rigid, strict and detailed Brazilian election laws will be followed.

That means that the 27 regional electoral boards (“TREs”) around the country, after receiving the 2,776 challenges by the deadline on July 14, will now have until August 5 to examine them. After that, according to Lewandowski, the TSE will examine all the cases that have not been resolved until another deadline on August 19.

“We expect that we will be capable of handling this because as soon as the TSE and the Supreme Court (“STF”) define the parameters, the judgments will be speeded up,” declared Lewandowski.

There are still serious questions about all this. Ficha Limpa was approved by Congress on May 19 and signed into law by president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva on June 4.

However, while the rejection of a candidate will be based on the Ficha Limpa law and the law is backed by popular outrage at the generalized lack of ethics in politics around the country, it is certain that challenges accepted by the TREs, and then by the TSE, will create a tidal wave of appeals to the Supreme Court.

And those appeals will be based on questions regarding the constitutionality of the Ficha Limpa law itself. In other words, no one knows how the parameters will be defined.

Meanwhile, election lawyers are complaining loudly about the uncertainties their politician/clients face. And if this is not resolved soon, they point out, all the will fall into the laps of the voters.

ABr

Written by Paula Laboissière

http://www.brazzilmag.com


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