Lidiane Leite, Mayor of Bom Jardin, a small town in northeast Brazil, has been governing for three years – largely through WhatsApp messages to her cabinet.
WhatsApp, the mobile app which allows remote communication, has been the foundation of Lidiane’s term as Mayor, which she has used to delegate work to other people while she operates remotely in more affluent areas of the country. When she took office, Lidiane was just 22 years old with little experience in public service. Upon her appointment, she moved to Sao Luis, 150 miles away, taking $4 million of public funding with her.
PPE applicants should consider what remotely operating governance could mean for the future of democracy. Ms Leite’s distance approach was perhaps marred by her lack of experience, but it must be considered whether a politician needs to be seen and physically present in their locality for them to be effective at their job. Historians would do well to explore how these themes of absent but powerful governments are repeated throughout time, paying particularly attention to colonialist empires where figurative rule was often by a foreign figurehead, with legislation implemented at a local level.
Ms Leite is currently wanted for corruption and is being searched for by the police. Prior to this charge, she had a large public profile not only on WhatsApp but through other social media outlets; in particular Instagram. HSPS applicants should consider the responsibility of public officials in their private life, and whether there is a divide between the personal and political. An interesting case to explore in light of this would be that of Anthony Weiner; a prospective New York mayoral candidate whose campaign was damaged by exposes on his private life.
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