Brazil’s highest electoral court has barred former President Jair Bolsonaro from running for political office until 2030, after finding him guilty of abusing his power and misusing public media during last year’s election campaign.
Five out of seven judges found the former president guilty, effectively ending any hope of a political comeback in the forthcoming 2026 election. Two of the judges voted against the decision, which prevents Bolsonaro from running for public office for eight years.
The case stems from a meeting Bolsonaro held with foreign ambassadors in July 2022, in which he spread false information about Brazil’s electoral system and brought its credibility into question ahead of last year’s fractious election. The meeting was livestreamed by official television channels and on YouTube.
YouTube took down the livestream of the event for not complying with its fake news policy.
Judge Alexandre de Moraes, who presided over the court, cast his vote last. “Let us reaffirm our faith in our democracy and the rule of law,” he said after voting in favor of the guilty verdict.
Moraes added that with the vote Brazilian authorities would show they do not tolerate “criminal extremism attacking the powers of the state, fake news, disinformation to try to deceive voters.”
Bolsonaro has denied any wrongdoing. Speaking to Brazilian radio station Itatiaia on Friday, Bolsonaro said he planned to appeal the court’s decision.
The far right politician lost the election by the narrowest margin in decades to current President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. Riots on January 8 saw pro-Bolsonaro protesters breaking into government buildings in Brasilia, following weeks of demonstrations over the election results.
The case at the Superior Electoral Court began with a lawsuit brought by Brazil’s Democratic Labor Party against both Bolsonaro and Walter Braga Netto, his running mate in the 2022 elections. The majority of judges voted to find Braga Netto not guilty.
During the meeting with ambassadors, the former president allegedly said the 2022 elections might be compromised due to fraud, according to a report by Judge Benedito Gonçalves.
Bolsonaro also allegedly said that in 2018 voting machines had changed voters’ choices to benefit his opponent, and that the Brazilian voting machines are not auditable, while insinuating that electoral and judicial authorities were protecting “terrorists,” the report added.
Such claims of flaws in the electoral system have all been denied by Brazil’s electoral authorities.
The case at the Superior Electoral Court is one of several cases against the former president.
Previous reporting contributed by CNN’s Duarte Mendonca and Mohammed Tawfeeq.