Bolsonaro Accuses Brazil Electoral Court of Stealing Votes

President Jair Bolsonaro said, without providing evidence, that Brazil’s highest electoral authorities stole votes in previous elections and will do it again in the 2022 presidential contest unless congress approves his proposal to reintroduce paper ballots.

The allegations are the latest in a series of unsubstantiated vote-fraud claims made by the far-right leader. They come just as opinion polls show his popularity dropping to record lows amid scandals involving the purchase of Covid-19 vaccines.

“The fraud is inside the Superior Electoral Court, there’s no doubt,” Bolsonaro told a group of supporters in front of his official residence on Friday. “This happened in 2014,” he said, referring to the re-election of leftist President Dilma Rousseff by 51.6% of the votes in a second-round runoff against center-right candidate Aecio Neves.

Bolsonaro Accuses Brazil Electoral Court of Stealing Votes

Congressional and electoral authorities rebuked Bolsonaro’s remarks.

“Anyone who plans for a regression in the democratic rule of law will certainly be pointed to by the Brazilian people and history as an enemy of the nation,” said Senate President Rodrigo Pacheco in a press conference Friday afternoon.

A statement published on the superior electoral court’s website Friday afternoon and signed by the head of the court, Supreme Court Justice Luis Roberto Barroso, also repudiated the president’s comments. “Ever since the implementation of electronic ballot systems in 1996, there has never been a documented episode of fraud,” it said, adding that the accusation “is offensive to all.” “Any effort to impede democratic elections violates constitutional principles and amounts to a crime of responsibility,” the note concluded.

Barroso has said the current system is safe. He is against adding paper ballots that could be manually counted if the electronic system were to be challenged, pointing out that such a change would actually reopen the possibility of fraud through human interference. Bolsonaro called Barroso an “imbecile.”

Brazil has used electronic ballots since 1996, and Bolsonaro himself was elected five times as a lawmaker through that system. He also won as president in 2018 in a second-round runoff, but says, without offering evidence, that he didn’t have an outright victory in the first round because of vote fraud.

Electoral authorities last month called on Bolsonaro to present evidence of election-fraud claims, but the president has so far refused to do so.

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