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Many Obamas on the ballot in Brazilian elections

By Shasta Darlington, CNN
September 24, 2012 -- Updated 2021 GMT (0421 HKT)
  • Candidates who like to stand out turn to using memorable names
  • Obama is popular, along with characters like Batman, Robin, Superman and Rambo
  • During electoral spots, some candidates dress in costumes to grab voters' attention
  • Critics call such eccentricities immature, but others say they're a sign of a healthy democracy

Belo Horizonte, Brazil (CNN) -- Too bad Barack Obama isn't running for office in Brazil. The real one, that is.

He's so popular here that at least 16 candidates for municipal elections have adopted the name "Obama" to try to get more votes on October 7.

There are plenty of "Baracks," as well as "Ricardo Obama," "Wilson Obama" and even "Barata Obama," which literally translates as "Cockroach Obama."

And it doesn't stop with the U.S. president.

As candidates try to stand out, ballots are filled with the names of characters like Batman, Robin, Superman and Rambo. And there are even some oddball characters like gyrating dancers, Santa Claus and a "Bin Laden" who says he'll "blow up corruption."

The candidates dress in costumes during their short electoral spots, hoping to grab the attention of would-be voters.

They were inspired after a popular TV clown became the most-voted-for contender in the last congressional elections.

For some, the eccentric candidates are a sign of political immaturity; but for others, they're proof that Brazil's democracy is flourishing.

Brazilians are surprisingly laid back when it comes to politics and questions of authority. Everyone from football players to presidents go by their first names or nicknames.

The most popular leader in recent history, former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, ran for office on his nickname "Lula," which can be translated as "Squid."

The current president, Dilma Rousseff, is simply called "Dilma" by most Brazilians. In fact, more than 140 candidates for municipal elections have adopted the name "Dilma" for the ballot.

One of the Obama candidates has another explanation for many of the bizarre names adopted during elections.

"There is so much corruption in politics that people sometimes prefer to vote for a candidate who isn't a real person," said Gerson Januario de Almeida. He's running for councilman in the central Brazilian city of Belo Horizonte with the name "Obama BH."

For the last couple of years, he has worked as a Barack Obama impersonator at parties and events.

But he says he'll make a difference if he wins the election.

"I used this name because I think it can bring me votes," he told CNN. "But I need to separate just being a body double from being a politician."

His platform, ironically, is health reform. He hands out pamphlets as he strolls around the center of the city with a big sash bearing the name "Obama BH."

Most passers-by seem more interested in getting their picture taken with "Obama" than reading about his campaign promises.

"With that face and appearance, it'll be hard to go wrong," one man says.

But others say looks aren't enough.

"I'll be open to his proposals, but politics aren't a joke," another man says.

Obama BH says he's pretty sure no one has adopted the name of the Republican U.S. presidential candidate.

But if the U.S. presidential elections don't go to the real Obama, a few Mitt Romneys may emerge the next time Brazilians go to the polls.

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