World

Clown-Congressman Passes Test, Now Gets to Pass Laws

Grumpy the Clown showed the world he's no joke — he passed his reading and writing test.

The clown-turn-Congressman tweeted,"this time it counts," after the São Paulo Electoral Court wanted to determine whether he met a constitutional mandate that federal lawmakers be literate.

It is still an open question whether he will face charges for allegedly forging a literacy certificate.

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."

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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.

He ordered that Silva must demonstrate that he can read and write.

Silva has attributed the discrepancies to the fact that his wife helped him write his application because he has trouble holding a pen firmly between his thumb and index finger.

Following Thursday's test, the president of the electoral court, Judge Walter de Almeida Guilherme, told reporters that Silva "read and wrote" during the exam, but did not give more details.

Last month, Vladimir Porfirio, spokesman for Silva's political party, said the campaign is "ready to prove the rigorous legality of his candidacy."

If Silva is barred from office, the votes he received will be declared invalid and a complex formula will be used to redistribute the congressional seats at stake.

Brazil's 513-seat lower house is filled using a proportional representation system that allocates seats to parties according to the total number of votes their candidates win, so successful candidates can sometimes pull several allies into office.

Based on reporting by The Associated Press.

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