City officials in Porto Alegre, capital of Rio Grande do Sul state, announced that they would allow buses to circulate for free on Sunday, as Brazilians go to the polls for the 2022 general elections. The municipality initially had said, in the name of cost-cutting, it would not offer free public transport during the election for the first time in 27 years, but it was forced to backtrack after public pressure.
Critics claimed that it would, in fact, be a political decision by Mayor Sebastião Melo, a supporter of President Jair Bolsonaro. Free buses largely benefit the population that earns up to two times the minimum wage (BRL 2,424, or USD 449), which makes up the majority of Brazil and a large part of former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s electorate.
Having to pay for buses would make it cheaper for voters in Porto Alegre not to turn up to polling stations. A round trip by bus costs BRL 9.60, while the highest fine for voter absence is only BRL 3.51.
Curitiba and Rio de Janeiro also announced that their bus services would be free on Sunday.
Senator Randolfe Rodrigues called on the Supreme Court to demand that all cities guarantee the free circulation of public transportation on Sunday. Justice Luís Roberto Barroso will decide on the case.