Brazil’s highest election authority on Friday barred Jair Bolsonaro from running for any public office for the next eight years over the disgraced former far-right president’s abuse of power related to baseless claims of electoral fraud — the first of 16 election-related charges he faces.
Five members of the seven-judge Superior Electoral Court (TSE) found that Bolsonaro violated election law last July when he summoned more than 100 international diplomats for a nationally televised 50-minute presentation in the Palacio da Alvarada — the executive residence — during which he disparaged the judiciary and claimed the country’s electronic voting system was vulnerable to hacking.
This, despite there never having been any evidence of fraud during the system’s three-decade history.
TSE President Alexandre de Moraes lambasted Bolsonaro’s “cinematographic production” that was intended to “bombard voters with disinformation” to “raise more votes.”
Moraes further said that Bolsonaro had a “clear sense of destroying the credibility of the electronic voting system” in order to “influence and convince voters that they were the victims of a huge conspiracy by the judiciary to rig the 2022 presidential elections.”
In addition to his baseless aspersions against electronic voting, Bolsonaro asserted during the presentation that if he lost the 2022 presidential election to leftist challenger and current President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, it would be due to “communist” meddling.
“It was a monologue in which there was self-promotion [and] disqualification of the judiciary,” Supreme Federal Court Justice TSE Vice President Cármen Lúcia said during Bolsonaro’s trial. “What public servants cannot do in the public space is to attack the Supreme Court as if the institution would not have been affected.”
Bolsonaro’s autocratic actions have been compared to those of former U.S. President Donald Trump, long ago earning him the nickname “Trump of the Tropics.”
Supporters of the defeated president blocked roads and organized demonstrations after the election, and on January 8 thousands of protesters stormed Brazil’s Congress, Supreme Court, and presidential palace to contest what they called a “stolen” election by da Silva and his allies.
Democracy and human rights defenders welcomed the TSE’s decision and said Bolsonaro should be held accountable for his other alleged crimes, including “genocidal” policies and practices against Indigenous peoples.
Citing “four years of persecution, crimes, and hatred,” Brazilian Minister of Indigenous Peoples Sônia Guajajara said that “Bolsonaro’s ineligibility is an important step towards reparation.”
“He must be held accountable for the countless crimes committed against our people,” she added. “We will stand firm for indigenous rights.”
Citing Bolsonaro’s past as a soldier during the 20-year, U.S.-backed military dictatorship, Brazilian Tourism Board Chair Marcelo Freixo, a former Brazilian Socialist Party federal lawmaker, quipped that “Bolsonaro was elected as a captain… soon he will be a soldier in prison.”
Rosa Amorim, a state lawmaker from Pernambuco in the Northeast representing da Silva’s Workers’ Party, tweeted that “the Brazilian people will enjoy Friday knowing that Bolsonaro is not even running for building manager.”
“The Federal Auditing Court can rule that he misused public funds for personal electoral benefit and make him pay back the estimated 12,000 reais spent on the [Palacio da Alvorada] event,” Mier wrote. “The attorney general’s office can conduct a criminal investigation that could result in a possible jail sentence.”
Carlos Melo, a political science professor at Insper University in São Paulo, toldThe Associated Press that Friday’s ruling spells the end of Bolsonaro’s comeback aspirations.
“This decision will end Bolsonaro’s chances of being president again, and he knows it,” Melo said. “After this, he will try to stay out of jail, elect some of his allies to keep his political capital, but it is very unlikely he will ever return to the presidency.”
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