Brazil’s electoral court to probe Bolsonaro for attacking voting system

Brazil’s Superior Electoral Court announced Monday it will investigate far-right President Jair Bolsonaro for his constant and baseless attacks on the country’s electronic voting system.

The country’s highest electoral body also agreed to ask the Supreme Federal Court to investigate the president for spreading misinformation during a Facebook Live event last Thursday, in which Bolsonaro spoke for more than two hours about his conviction that there had been fraud in the last two presidential elections, saying he should have won in the first round in 2018.

The Electoral Court investigation will determine whether Bolsonaro committed “abuse of economic and political power, improper use of the media, corruption, fraud, conduct banned for public agents and extemporaneous propaganda in his attacks against the electronic voting system and the legitimacy of the 2022 general elections.”

Bolsonaro has long been sniping at electronic voting, introduced in Brazil in 1996, and advocating instead for the use of “printable and auditable” paper ballots to be introduced for the 2022 presidential race.

People in Brazil cast their ballots electronically at voting stations, and Bolsonaro has for years been arguing for a paper printout to be made of each vote cast, suggesting the absence of a paper trail makes cheating easier.

He has not provided evidence of such fraud, and the Superior Electoral Court insists the system is transparent and has never been tainted by irregularities.

On Sunday, thousands of Brazilians took to the streets in several cities, including Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Brasilia, to support Bolsonaro in protest against electronic voting.

The 66-year-old leader — under fire from several quarters — did not take part in the demonstrations.

He is facing an investigation into his handling of the coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than half-a-million Brazilians, and his popularity is at a record low.

Three weeks ago, Bolsonaro sparked controversy by casting doubt on whether the 2022 elections would be held.

“Either we hold proper elections in Brazil, or there will be no elections,” he said.

Additionally, Bolsonaro has called the Superior Electoral Court’s president Luis Roberto Barroso an “imbecile” for suggesting introducing a paper ballot could open the process to manipulation.

Analysts say his attack on the voting system suggests he is bracing for defeat in elections next year and to use fraud claims as a means of fighting back in the example of former US president Donald Trump, of whom Bolsonaro is a fervent admirer.

On Monday, Barroso and all former court presidents since the country’s constitution was ratified in 1988 signed a document guaranteeing the transparency and security of the electronic voting system.