Brazil Political Crisis Grows as Bolsonaro, Top Court Bicker
(Bloomberg) -- President Jair Bolsonaro’s relentless attack on Brazil’s voting system soured his relationship with the Supreme Court, leaving the country on the brink of an institutional crisis.
Top Justice Luiz Fux on Thursday canceled plans for a meeting with Bolsonaro and the heads of congress that was intended to defuse rising tensions between them. The move came a day after the court allowed an investigation of the far-right president over his unsubstantiated claims of election fraud.
“The president has repeatedly offended and attacked members of this court,” Fux said, adding that Bolsonaro continues to sow doubts about the integrity of the country’s electoral system. “Facing these circumstances, the Supreme Court informs that it has canceled the previously announced meeting between the heads of government.”
Fux’s announcement represents the harshest response yet by the justices to Bolsonaro’s claims that next year’s elections may be stolen from him unless congress approves a bill introducing paper printouts of every vote cast in the country.
“It’s an important statement, and should be considered even exceptional, especially coming from Luiz Fux, president of the Supreme Court,” Senate President Rodrigo Pacheco told GloboNews Friday. “This announcement should be considered an indication that things are not well.”
Pacheco added that the three powers -- executive, judicial and legislative -- need to “sit down at the table in order to calm the mood.”
Markets are becoming rattled by growing political tensions. The country’s swaps curve is already showing pricing of more aggressive rate hikes ahead due to political and fiscal risks, which are boosting the volatility of the Brazilian real. The currency was the worst performer in emerging markets on Thursday after Fux’s statement, though it rebounded on Friday.
The proposal for paper receipts was rejected by a special lower house committee late on Thursday by 23-11 votes. It may still go to a floor vote, according to Speaker Arthur Lira, but will likely face stiff opposition from lawmakers.
“I feel like the interest of the majority of Congress in this moment is the preservation of the electronic system, and this matter is close to exhausted,” said Pacheco.
Bolsonaro’s attacks brought together justices who normally don’t see eye to eye, including the court’s dean Gilmar Mendes and Luis Roberto Barroso, who also presides the electoral authority, according to two people close to the judges. They met on Friday and again on Monday and agreed they needed to act to protect the country’s democracy, the people added, asking for anonymity because the discussion isn’t public.
Bolsonaro said during a social media broadcast he wasn’t informed by Fux that the meeting had been called off and centered his attacks on the president of the electoral court. “Do I need to agree with Barroso because he’s a god of Olympus? Nobody can go against his decisions?”
Brazil has relied on an electronic voting system for decades, which Bolsonaro claims is rigged. The president has never produced proof of his allegations.
©2021 Bloomberg L.P.