Sao Paulo, Brazil:
After eight lost elections, Regina Bento Sequeira had the plan to win a city council seat in Brazil: She reinvented herself as the superhero “Captain Chloroquine”.
The name – which will actually appear on the ballot for the country’s local elections on Sunday – is a nod to its political idol, far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, who despite numerous studies praising chloroquine as a miracle cure for Covid-19 finding it is ineffective.
Almost as controversial as the hotly debated anti-malarial drug is Brazil’s peculiar practice of admitting candidates under pseudonyms like Sequeira, a phenomenon that has exploded despite complaints from critics that undermine serious politics.
For Sequeira, this is the only way candidates like her – regular Brazilians with no deep pockets – can hope to grab voters’ attention.
She crossed Rio de Janeiro in a metallic yellow convertible with the nickname and handed out flyers with a picture of herself in a Captain Marvel outfit. She has asked voters to vote her for the city council to fight both Covid-19 and corruption.
“This is the only way I can distinguish myself. I don’t work in politics, I have no support, I have no money. That’s why I chose this path,” says Sequeira, 59, the lawyer in her day job.
But she says she has no illusions about her chances.
“Are you kidding?” she says when asked who she thinks will win.
“The same as always!”
On Sunday’s ballot papers, Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Bin Laden, Trump and Obama will also be among the 576,000 candidates applying for 64,000 jobs nationwide.
“Because there are many candidates, people try to use outstanding names,” says Natalia Aguiar, political scientist at the Federal University of Minas Gerais.
“The disrespectful name phenomenon could be seen as a symptom of a deeper problem: we overestimate individual candidates at the expense of party politics,” she told AFP.
Get out of the vote
Sequeira first ran for public office in 2004.
She has tried a number of aliases over the years, many of which come from her proper nickname, Zefa.
In 2016, the year the augmented reality game Pokemon Go came out, it was “PokeZefa”.
In 2010 she was “Zefa White who fought against the household gnomes”.
In 2008 she was “Cave Zefa” with a Flintstones-inspired logo and criticized what she described as the Stone Age level of development in her hometown of Sao Joao de Meriti.
But as “Super Zefa” in 2006 she received 5,713 votes, the most in her career. This year she tries her luck as a superhero again.
“Chloroquine was the hot topic of the day,” she said when registering the candidates.
“Everyone was talking about chloroquine, whether negative or positive. That’s exactly what I wanted.”
Political communication specialist Janaine Aires sees the trend as an extension of Brazilian culture of nicknames.
“It’s a characteristic of Brazilian culture: we try to be close to the people we talk to,” says Aires, professor at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte.
Pseudonymous candidates are all hoping to mimic the legendary success of Tiririca (Grumpy), a clown who won the most votes nationwide in 2010 after using the slogan “It can’t get worse”.
He has been re-elected twice since then.
But political analysts say it doesn’t always work.
“There is no evidence that this strategy gives candidates an advantage,” says Aguiar.
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by GossipMantri staff and posted from a syndicated feed.)