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17 million Brazilians have sold votes at elections - survey

October 5th, 2009

 Photo Wikimedia

Photo: Wikimedia

As many as 13% of Brazilians admit to having sold their votes in elections, according to a survey by pollster Datafolha published by the Folha da São Paulo newspaper.

Projected across the whole country, the figure equates to 17 million people over the age of 16, among an electorate of 132 million voters.

Almost 80% of those asked said they thought  Brazilians do sell their votes, while 94% condemn the practice.

The survey published a year before Brazilians go to the polls in presidential elections shows 79% of people think votes are sold in the country.

While the gap between rich and poor in Brazil is one of the the widest in the world, vote buying is not a new phenomenom.

Since the first elections were held in Brazil at the end of the 19th century, some of the more unscrupulous politicians seeking power, particularly in poorer more remote areas of the country, in addition to cash have handed voters items such as water, cattle, crop seeds, even paying for false teeth and other dental treatment in exchange for their support at the ballot box.

Voters in the country’s poorer North-East and North Centre West regions topped the list of those having admitted to sell their vote with 19%, while the figure fell to 8% in the more affluent South-East and South regions.

The beauty of the Brazil’s electronic voting system is that once the polls close, results are delivered within a few hours in a country the size of the United States without Alaska.

Though there are no American-style hanging chads, which left the race for the White House undecided for six weeks at the end of 2000, it’s what happens before voters go to the polls that concerns reseachers in this case.

Twelve per cent of those questioned said they would be prepared to sell their vote.

“If a candidate pays my debts I will sell on the spot,” one voter was quoted as saying. “If someone comes to me I’ll sell. I’ve lost all my faith in politics. This [vote] has lost its value,” another reportedly said.

Brazilians can often be heard expressing exasperation and a feeling of helplessness about a seemingly never-ending stream of political corruption scandals.

Before the most recent scandal surrounding Senate President José Sarney, who saw a string of allegations against dropped, months of separate revelations flowed from the capital Brasilia earlier this year, including the misuse of travel expenses meant for official business and overly inflated allowances.

The Datafolha survey revealed 92% of voters believe there is corruption in Congress and among political parties, while 88% think it exists at the very top of government and among the various ministries.

Researchers for the survey interviewed 2,122 people in 150 municipalities across 25 Brazilian states leading Folha da São Paulo to the story in a separate section on Sunday under the headline ‘No one in innocent’, perhaps in reference to the 83% of those surveyed who admitted they have broken the law at least once.

As if to underline that not all Brazilians are lawbreakers, the survey pointed out that 74% said they always respect the law even at the expense of ‘lost opportunities’.

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