Brazil tests literacy of new clown congressman

The wildly popular "Grumpy the Clown" must prove he meets the federal literacy mandate before joining congress

Topics: Brazil, Latin America,

Grumpy the clown won election in a laugher, getting more votes than any other candidate for Brazil’s Congress. Now he has to prove that he can read and write.

The Sao Paulo Electoral Court held a closed-door exam for the clown turned congressman-elect on Thursday to determine if he meets a constitutional mandate that federal lawmakers be literate.

Details of the test were not immediately available from the court’s press office.

Francisco Silva became famous as Tiririca — “Grumpy” in Portuguese — and received about 1.3 million votes, nearly twice as many as the next-highest vote-getter in last month’s congressional elections.

His campaign videos drew millions of viewers on the Internet, with slogans such as “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.”

But a less humorous element emerged during the campaign: Allegations that Silva, like 10 percent of Brazilians, is illiterate. Judge Aloisio Silveira ruled that there were discrepancies between the handwriting on Silva’s application to run for Congress and that on the document in which he swears he can read and write and in autographs he gave to fans.

He ordered that Silva must demonstrate that he can read and write.

Silva has attributed the discrepancies to the fact that his wife helped him write his application because he has trouble holding a pen firmly between his thumb and index finger.



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Last month, Vladimir Porfirio, spokesman for Silva’s political party, said the campaign is “ready to prove the rigorous legality of his candidacy.”

If Silva is barred from office, the votes he received will be declared invalid and a complex formula will be used to redistribute the congressional seats at stake.

Brazil’s 513-seat lower house is filled using a proportional representation system that allocates seats to parties according to the total number of votes their candidates win, so successful candidates can sometimes pull several allies into office.

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