SÃO PAULO, Brazil — In Brazil, it’s not unusual to see “Taliban” run for election. That is, after all, Farvardin Asazadeh Asgarabadi’s nickname. The 45-year-old merchant living in the São Paulo town of Pindamonhangaba is originally from Iran, but is now running for city councilman in his new home.
He’s not alone. Some 1,450 naturalized Brazilian citizens are running for positions on city council, including the top spot of mayor, across the country, according to Brazil’s electoral court.
They come from as near as Uruguay and Bolivia to as far as Uganda and Lebanon, representing 35 countries across the Americas, Europe, Africa and Asia.
After a first round of voting on Oct. 7, Brazilians are set to go to the polls again on Oct. 28 to vote for local governments. And as more than 80,000 candidates are vying for posts, nearly 2 percent of them are proud emigres.
Brazil has a long tradition of welcoming immigrants. As its jobs market expands, parts of the country are witnessing new waves of migrants seeking opportunities in Latin America’s largest economy. Now in a bold move toward assimilation, many of them have set their sights on top leadership roles in the local governments of their adoptive home.
It doesn’t take much to be able to run for office as a foreigner in Brazil. Once a naturalized citizen, all that is needed is a voter registration card issued at least one year prior to the election.
Portuguese candidates, on the other hand, only need permanent residency. Brazil’s constitution states that anyone coming from Portugal has the same political rights as natural-born Brazilians.
However, no foreigner can dream of being president of Brazil, says Alberto Rollo, lawyer and expert in Brazilian electoral law.
“If you’re elected deputy or senator, you also cannot preside over the house as you cannot substitute the president,” Rollo explained. “Incidentally, you also cannot run for vice president.”
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Originally published on October 27, 2012, on GlobalPost.