- (Photo: Reuters)
Evangelical Christians in Brazil have been playing an important role in the 2012 mayoral and city councilor elections in the country. Following their huge growth, revealed in the 2010 census results from the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), they have been seen as a major target group for candidates vying for votes.
In big cities such as Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro politicians have been seen visiting churches trying to win the votes of believers.
There has also been controversy as some pastors have reportedly been asking their congregations to vote for certain candidates from their pulpits. However, preaching for candidates has been widely condemned by many of the Christian leaders in the country.
Mayoral candidate for Sao Paulo, Jose Serra (PSDB), was even seen promoting himself from a pulpit of an evangelical church, which resulted in him being fined for campaigning inside a house of worship, which is against campaigning rules.
Efforts to gain the growing evangelical vote have been frantic, and many have already suggested the growing religious group has had a big influence on the first round of election results.
Popular evangelical leader, Pastor Silas Malafaia, has been highlighted as a particularly influential evangelical leader within the political battlefield, after it was revealed how successful candidates had been following his support for them.
Of the 48 mayor and city councilor candidates he supported in the country's elections, 40 have won, with four going through to the second round of the elections.
"I supported 18 people for city councilors, 16 were elected. In Porto Alegre, there are a lot of evangelicals (…) I just helped [them to win] (…). I cannot say I won, but I helped to win," he said, according to iG publication.
However, Pastor Silas Malafaia has not only openly shown his support to candidates but also his disagreement with others.
He has announced that he is supporting Sao Paulo candidate Serra for the second round, saying that Serra stood for Christian principles on many core issues, such as abortion.
Meanwhile, he has also not been afraid to campaign against opposing candidates, and he has used his Twitter account to attack Fernando Haddad (PT). The evangelical leader has highlighted Haddad as the author of widely criticized pro-gay materials in the country, and shown his clear opposition to Haddad's run.
The materials promoted by Haddad were proposed by him to be distributed in schools for children, and have been sternly condemned by many Christian and pro-family groups for promoting homosexual behavior and targeting children. The distribution of the materials was later suspended by President Dilma Rousseff after pressure from Christians earlier this year.
Nine state capital cities in Brazil have already elected their mayors, and candidates now go forward to the second round of Brazil's nationwide municipal elections, which will be held on Oct. 28.