'Grumpy the Clown' elected to Brazil's Congress, but can he read?

Earlier this year we ran a piece by Julia Ioffe on some of the eccentrics and entertainers elected to Russia's Duma under the front-page headline "Send in the Clowns." Now I feel like we may have used that one too early:

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.

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.

The exam was held on Thursday and apparently Tiririca both "read and wrote" during it, though it's not yet clear if he was proficient enough to hold office. 

Just for the record, in Brazil, people like Tiririca and "Chico bin Laden" are allowed to run for office, but professional comedians aren't allowed to make fun of them. This makes a lot of sense.


Gambian president may become king

The Gambia's title-obsessed president -- he prefers to be addressed as His Excellency the President Sheik Professor Alhaji Doctor Yahya Jammeh -- may soon be adding a new one to his letterhead: 

Tribal chieftains are touring the country to rally support for President Yahya Jammeh's coronation.

"The president has brought development to the country, and for that he deserves to be crowned King of The Gambia," said Junkung Camara, chief of the western region of Foni Brefet. "This is the only way the Gambian people can express our gratitude to a leader who has done a lot for his country."

This would be very much in keeping for Jammeh, whose obsession with honorifics even led him to claim an admiralship in the fictitious "Nebraska Navy" earlier this year. 

Generally speaking, the global trend has obviously been away from kings in recent years. Nepal did away with its centuries-old monarchy in 2007. Members of the British Commonwealth may drop the whole institution after Queen Elizabeth's reign ends. South Africa culled its tribal kings over the summer. Tiny Swaziland is now the only monarchy left in Sub-Saharan Africa.

As an opposition journalist quoted in the piece points out, Jammeh already has absolute political power so not much would change if he were made king, beyond yet another ego boost. Plus, the Kims have shown -- and the Qaddafis and Mubaraks likely will soon -- it's quite possible to have hereditary succession while at least superficially adhering to a post-enlightenment political model. 

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