President Jair Bolsonaro’s conduct of attacking the Brazilian electoral system won a practical response, this Monday, from the Judiciary. In measures unanimously approved at the reopening of work this semester, the Superior Electoral Court (TSE) decided to open an administrative inquiry on suspicion of abuse of economic power, corruption or fraud, abuse of political power or misuse of the media, use administrative machinery and early electoral propaganda. In addition, Minister Luis Roberto Barroso asked for the inclusion of Bolsonaro in the investigation of fake news, which is already being processed in the Federal Supreme Court (STF), by transmission on social networks last Thursday in which the president presented unfounded allegations and already refuted by various bodies, including the TSE, against electronic voting. The request was also approved by all seven ministers of the electoral court.
Both measures were taken on the day the Judiciary decided to hit the president with force, with the reopening of work this semester. Earlier, the president of the STF, Luiz Fux, had already made a strong defense of the electoral system and criticized attitudes that “sneakly erode the democratic values” consolidated in the country. At night, it was the turn of Barroso, president of the TSE, to point out threats to the political system. “There are wrong things happening in the country and we all need to be aware,” he said, in his opening speech at the electoral court.
Without mentioning Bolsonaro’s name, Barroso rebutted in detail the false information presented by the president during the live, saying with that to appeal to “people of good faith”. He stated, for example, that until the adoption of electronic voting machines, in 1996, Brazil lived a history of systematic electoral fraud, in which electoral inspectors even “eat votes during the counting”. He listed the difficulties that the return of ballots or paper receipts would bring to the process, with the transport and storage of urns in remote locations, susceptible to theft. “There would be 150 million votes transported in a country of militias and cargo theft,” he said.
He even provoked him by explaining why other countries have not implemented the electronic voting system. “These are countries that haven’t had the problems we had with coronelismo, with the halter vote, with the purchase of votes, with mapping [alteração de resultados], with pen-and-ink election”, he declared, adding: “A vote printed in the current Brazilian conditions will be an open door to breaking the secrecy of the vote. We are going to encourage the colonelism and the militia”, he stated.
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The opening of the administrative inquiry was requested by Minister Luis Felipe Salomão, Inspector General of Electoral Justice, and will proceed in a confidential manner. It aims to investigate “the unproven reports and statements of fraud in the electronic voting system, with potential attacks on democracy and the legitimacy of elections.” The inclusion of Bolsonaro as investigated in the survey of fake news it takes place through a news-crime and places the president under the responsibility of minister Alexandre de Moraes, rapporteur of the investigation. “Democracy is not to be played with”, said Moraes, in his vote.
At live held last Thursday, the president repeated suspicions already refuted against the electronic voting system, including that the process would not be “audible” — in fact, the system goes through several stages of checking, and after each vote it is printed a ballot box bulletin, which helps to prove the credibility and transparency of the device. After presenting snippets of news based on internet videos, the president admitted that he had no evidence that his suspicions were well founded. “There is no way to prove whether the elections were or were not rigged. They are clues. Crime reveals itself with several clues”, said the president.
The tone of threat to next year’s elections continued on Sunday, when the president endorsed the actions of supporters who took to the streets for the implementation of the printed vote. “Without clean and democratic elections, there will be no election,” he said. “We more than demand, rest assured, together because you are in fact my Army — our Army — that the popular will be expressed in the public vote count,” he said in a video call to protesters, as reported by Folha de São Paulo.
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