Barack Obama, Batman, and Elvis Presley All Lost Elections on Sunday

Fellows 2014

By Jason Plautz

October 07, 2014

Also published by National Journal

Barack Obama was running for office in Brazil this weekend, but he lost. Also on the list of election losers Sunday: Mr. Bean, Batman, Elvis Presley, and Spiderman.

The weird roster of candidate names comes from a collision of two Brazilian traditions: election laws that allow just about anyone to run, and a culture that embraces nicknames wholeheartedly.

So while U.S. President Obama was nowhere near a Brazilian ballot, plenty of sound-alike candidates were: Cosme Barack Obama ran unsuccessfully in Sao Paulo (getting just .01 percent of the vote), and Obama de Colombo got just 600 votes in the southern state of Parana.

Internationally, Brazil's nickname tradition is typically known through soccer. A stocky player on this year's World Cup squad goes by "Hulk"—it's printed on his jersey—and the greatest player in the Brazil's history, and arguably in world history, goes simply by Pele. His given name was Edson Arantes do Nascimento.

But it's a nationwide affair. Former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva went by just "Lula," and current President Dilma Rousseff relies just on her first name in public (indeed, one campaign site for her reelection campaign blasted the soccer chant "Ole Ole Ole," inserting "Dilma, Dilma" in the chorus).

And for candidates further down the ballot, picking an odd name can help a candidate get noticed amid the mass. Take Claudio Henrique dos Anjos, who used the name Claudio Henrique Barack Obama while running for the Brazilian Legislature under the Worker's Party platform. Even though his website played up the latter half of his name, Obama still got just .03 percent of the vote and did not make the Legislature.

Among the other quirky, but ultimately failing, candidates who made ballot appearances Sunday: Batman CapixabaHilário "Mr. Bean" (the hilarious Mr. Bean), Prof. Moisés, O Homem-Aranha(Spiderman), Osama bin LadenCara de Hámburguer (Hamburger Face) and the succinctly named Pijama.

However, one big (real) name also made headlines for falling short on Sunday. Marina Silva, the surprising upstart who emerged as a challenger in the presidential race in August came in third on Sunday and will miss a runoff in three weeks. Silva, the former environment minister who at one point was polling near Dilma and the incumbent Working Party based on her outsider status, garnered just 21 percent of the vote.

Instead, Dilma will square off for reelection against second-place finisher Aecio Neves, the candidate from the center-right Brazilian Social Democracy Party and the former governor of the state of Minas Gerais. The two will face off in a final election on Oct. 26.

Jason Plautz reported from Brazil on a fellowship from the International Reporting Project (IRP).