Literacy row threatens clown’s parliament bid

BRAZILIANS seem eager to put a clown in parliament – but the courts are not laughing about a new report that he does not meet a legal requirement to be able to read and write.

The Brazilian constitution says that members of Congress must be literate, and prosecutors said yesterday they want to force Tiririca – a name that means “grumpy” in colloquial Portuguese – to disprove the allegations.

Otherwise, he could be thrown out of office if he wins the election.

Tiririca, whose real name is Francisco Silva, has been this electoral season’s hit in Brazil, drawing millions of viewers on YouTube to his campaign ads.

His slogans include “It can’t get any worse” and “What does a federal deputy do? Truly, I don’t know. But vote for me and you’ll find out”.

Polls show he is likely to win more votes for Brazil’s lower house than any other candidate.

But people who have worked with Silva on his TV shows and a book credited to him say he is illiterate, like about 10% of Brazil’s population.

A video shows a reporter reading questions to Silva. He is then asked to read one of the questions himself. Visibly shaken, he hesitates before campaign aides rush to the rescue and read it for him.

Now Silva may have to prove he can read before a judge. Prosecutor Pedro Barbosa has asked an electoral court to intervene.

If he fails to convince a judge he can read and write, Barbosa said, Silva could be removed from office.

In a statement, Sao Paulo’s electoral court said Silva’s candidacy could not be stopped before the vote because the court had already approved his application to run for Congress – which includes a document in which Silva swears he can read and write.

The effort to get Silva elected, despite his profession, is serious business.

Under Brazilian law, the 513-seat lower house of Congress is filled using an open-list proportional representation system that allocates seats to parties according to the total number of votes their candidates win.

As an extremely popular candidate who stands to win three times as many votes as his nearest competitor, a big win by Silva could pull in another three or four candidates from his party, which is in a coalition with the ruling Workers Party.


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