24 November 2022

Brazil election agency rejects Bolsonaro’s push to annul votes

24 November 2022

The head of Brazil’s electoral authority has rejected what he called a “bizarre and illicit” request from President Jair Bolsonaro’s political party to annul ballots cast on most electronic voting machines, which would have overturned the October 30 election.

Alexandre de Moraes had issued a prior ruling that implicitly raised the possibility that Mr Bolsonaro’s Liberal Party could suffer as a result of such a challenge.

The electoral chief had set a 24-hour deadline for the party to present its amended report on the results from the first electoral round on October 2.

Earlier on Wednesday, party president Valdemar Costa and lawyer Marcelo de Bessa held a press conference and said there would be no amended report.

Mr de Moraes wrote in his decision hours later: “The complete bad faith of the plaintiff’s bizarre and illicit request … was proven, both by the refusal to add to the initial petition and the total absence of any evidence of irregularities and the existence of a totally fraudulent narrative of the facts.”

He also ordered the suspension of government funds for the Liberal Party’s coalition until a fine of 23 million reais (£3.6 million) for bad faith litigation is paid.

On Tuesday, Mr de Bessa filed a 33-page request on behalf of Mr Bolsonaro and Mr Costa citing a software bug in the majority of Brazil’s machines – they lack individual identification numbers in their internal logs – to argue all the votes they recorded should be nullified.

Mr de Bessa said that doing so would leave Mr Bolsonaro with 51% of the remaining valid votes.

Neither Mr Costa nor Mr de Bessa have explained how the bug might have affected election results.

Independent experts consulted by The Associated Press said that, while newly discovered, the bug does not affect reliability and each voting machine is still readily identifiable through other means. In his ruling, Mr de Moraes noted the same.

He also wrote that the challenge to the vote appeared aimed at incentivising anti-democratic protest movements and creating tumult, and ordered the investigation of Mr Costa and the consultant hired to conduct an evaluation.

Mauricio Santoro, a political science professor at the State University of Rio de Janeiro, said: “De Moraes’ message to the political establishment is: the game is over. Questioning the result of the elections is not fair play, and people and institutions who do that will be punished harshly.”

In the press conference on Wednesday, Mr Costa said his intention is merely to prevent the results of the 2022 vote from haunting Brazil in the future.

On October 30, the electoral authority ratified the victory of Mr Bolsonaro’s nemesis, the leftist former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, and even many of the president’s allies quickly accepted the results.

Protesters in cities across the country have steadfastly refused to do the same, particularly with Mr Bolsonaro declining to concede.

Mr Bolsonaro spent more than a year claiming Brazil’s electronic voting system is prone to fraud, without ever presenting evidence.

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