A Brazilian Supreme Court justice has ruled that President Jair Bolsonaro should be investigated for his unproven claims that the country’s electronic voting system is vulnerable to fraud.
Wednesday’s ruling resulted from Bolsonaro missing a deadline on Monday to present any proof of his claims. The Supreme Court will now lead an investigation into the dissemination of “fake news” about the court and its members, as well as looking into a supposed “digital militia” financed by private companies to do so.
Bolsonaro has repeatedly made claims of fraud within the Brazil’s voting system without presenting any evidence. The President, who is expected to seek a second term in 2022, has also suggested that votes could be fraudulent.
He responded with anger to the Supreme Court decision to approve an investigation into his claims, according to Reuters.
“This investigation is not within the bounds of the constitution, so the antidote to this is also not within the bounds of the constitution,” Bolsonaro said on social media, without specifying further the nature of the threat, Reuters said.
Speaking on public television last Friday, Bolsonaro said “there’s no way of proving whether the elections were rigged or not.” He also said during an address to followers on Sunday that next year’s election would not be held if paper vote receipts were not reintroduced.
His statements questioning election integrity have led observers to fear that Bolsonaro – the so-called “Trump of the tropics” – will challenge the results of next year’s presidential election, should he lose the vote, in a similar manner to former US President Donald Trump, a Bolsonaro ally. Bolsonaro has threatened several times to cancel next year’s presidential election.
The Supreme Court decision, written by Justice Alexandre de Moraes, lists 11 possible crimes that the President may have committed, among them libel, defamation, insult, incitement to crime, criminal association and slanderous denunciation.
“The pronouncement of the President of the Republic, JAIR MESSIAS BOLSONARO, revealed itself as one of the occasions in which the agent positioned himself in a way, in theory, criminal and offensive to the Institutions, in particular the SUPREME FEDERAL COURT,” Moraes wrote.
Bolsonaro has come under increasing pressure in recent weeks as his government faces corruption allegations over its widely criticized handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.
On July 24, anti-Bolsonaro protesters rallied in major cities across Brazil, calling for his impeachment and for more coronavirus vaccines. The protests were organized by social movements and leftist parties.
Before an address on Brazilian state media last Thursday, Bolsonaro told journalists he would show that Brazil’s voting system was rigged. However, he did not manage to present concrete evidence to back up that claim.
In the course of the two-hour speech, he showed YouTube videos and out-of-context journalistic pieces to raise suspicion about the functioning of the internationally-praised electronic voting machine systems in Brazil.
One of the videos Bolsonaro presented as evidence against the current electoral system was of people who tried to cast Bolsonaro’s number in the 2018 presidential election but appeared to have been prevented by the electronic ballot, while people who tried to vote for the Workers Party candidate Fernando Haddad had no problems.
Shortly after the President spoke, Brazil’s Superior Electoral Court (TSE) refuted his claims. In the specific example used by Bolsonaro, the TSE said the complaints came from people who were trying to cast Bolsonaro’s electoral number on their vote for governor, for which his party at the time didn’t have a candidate in their region.
“We don’t have proof (of frauds), just to make it clear. But there are indications that elections for senators and deputies can occur the same thing (showed in the video). Why not?” said Bolsonaro.
Journalists Juliana Koch and Rodrigo Pedroso reported from Sao Paulo and CNN’s Philip Wang from Atlanta.