As Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro loses ground in the polls, his unsubstantiated claim that the 2022 elections could be rigged has grown in fervor and frequency. However, those freewheeling statements have sparked investigations that could jeopardize his eligibility to run for president at all.
The Supreme Electoral Court (TSE), which oversees elections in Brazil, has opened an administrative investigation into Bolsonaro’s claims that the country’s electronic voting system is insufficient and has been “violated” in previous years.
It also wants Bolsonaro investigated as part of a larger investigation into the spread of “fake news” and disinformation campaigns in Brazil. Both could have serious political ramifications for Bolsonaro.
According to Wallace Corbo, a constitutional law professor at Getlio Vargas Foundation University, if the TSE investigation finds that the president used his position to spread false information, Bolsonaro could be barred from running for office for eight years (FGV).
“As president, Bolsonaro is allowed and expected to take part in public discussions,” Corbo said. “What he cannot do — and has been doing — is systematically attack the electoral system by which he was elected.”
Bolsonaro promised to prove that Brazil’s internationally praised voting system is rigged in a press conference last week, but provided no evidence and admitted, “we don’t have proof.” He only showed a series of inconclusive YouTube videos and news reports, which the Supreme Electoral Court of Brazil (TSE) dismissed.
He stepped up his efforts to sow doubt about the electoral system this week, tweeting confidential documents from a 2018 federal investigation that he claims show the country’s voting system was “violated.”
The TSE, however, which has repeatedly refuted Bolsonaro’s claims of election rigging, claims that the hacking incident did not result in fraud. “It is worth reiterating that electronic voting machines are never networked. As they are not connected to the internet, they are not subject to remote access, which prevents any kind of external interference in the voting and counting process. For this reason, it is possible to say, with a margin of certainty, that the investigated invasion had no impact on the outcome of the elections,” the court said in a statement.
In response to the court’s decision to investigate him, President Obama has stated that his concern is solely for the integrity of the elections, and that he “won’t accept [any] intimidation.”
“Questionable elections will not be permitted next year. Brazil will have an election next year. Clean, democratic elections,” Bolsonaro said.
Despite this, his repeated attacks on current systems have raised fears that the incumbent is preparing to reject unfavorable outcomes.
Bolsonaro, who has repeatedly emphasized the importance of auditing ballots with paper records, said in a YouTube livestream on Thursday that if he wins in 2022, he will not request an audit. “Any side can question the elections. If I win I won’t question them … I won’t waste my time,” he said.