Far-right former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro was barred from running for re-election until 2030 after a jury on Friday concluded he had abused his power and cast unfounded suspicions on the country’s electronic voting system.
The decision would turn the 68-year-old’s political future upside down, possibly wiping out any chance of him regaining power.
Five judges from the country’s highest electoral court agreed that Mr Bolsonaro had used government communications to advertise his election campaign, creating distrust in the vote. Two judges voted against the move.
Carlos Melo, professor of political science at Inspar University in Sao Paulo, said: “This decision will make it impossible for Bolsonaro to become president again, but he knows it.” “After this he will try to elect some allies without getting out of prison to keep his political capital, but it is very unlikely that he will return to the presidency.”
The lawsuit focused on a July 18, 2022 meeting in which Mr Bolsonaro participated. Using government officials, state television, and the presidential palace of Brasilia To inform foreign ambassadors that the country’s electronic voting system is being rigged.
Justice Carmen Lucia, who is also a Supreme Court Justice, said in the decisive vote that formed the majority, “the facts are incontrovertible.”
“The meeting did happen. It was convened by the president at the time. The content is available. It was scrutinized by all and there was no denial that it actually happened,” she said.
Fellow Supreme Court Justice Alexandre de Moraes said the ruling represented a rejection of “populism born out of the flames of hateful, anti-democratic speech that fosters vicious disinformation.”
Bolsonaro told reporters in Minas Gerais state that the trial was unfair and politically motivated.
When asked what his next steps would be, he said: “I’m going to talk to my lawyer. Life goes on.” He criticized the ruling as an attack on Brazil’s democracy. “It’s a pretty difficult moment.”
Melo said the chances of the decision being overturned were “very low”. This will exclude Bolsonaro from the 2024 and 2028 local elections and the 2026 general election. The former president also faces other legal problems. including criminal investigations.. If convicted in the future, the suspension period could be extended for several years and he could be sentenced to prison.
Former presidents Fernando Collor de Melo and current president Luis Inacio Lula da Silva have been declared ineligible in the past, but in Mr Bolsonaro’s case, the president was accused of electoral fraud rather than a criminal offence. This is the first time he has been disqualified. Brazilian law prohibits candidates with criminal convictions from standing for office.
Lula’s credentials stemmed from a ruling that then-judge and now senator Sergio Moro was prejudiced when he sentenced the leftist leader to nearly 10 years in prison for corruption and money laundering charges. His status was reinstated by the Brazilian Supreme Court.
Maria Maris, 58, an engineer in Rio de Janeiro, praised the ruling but said she doubted it was politically motivated.
“My concern is that Mr Bolsonaro will appeal and run for the next presidential election even though he was disqualified today,” Maris said.
Bolsonaro has taken on a ceremonial leadership role within the Liberal Party, touring Brazil criticizing Lula, who won last October’s parliamentary elections by the narrowest margin in more than 30 years.
On January 8, a week after Mr. Lula took power, thousands of Bolsonaro supporters stormed government buildings to oust the left from power. The swift imprisonment and prosecution of hundreds of participants had a chilling effect on rejecting the election results. Federal police are investigating Bolsonaro’s role in instigating the riots. He denied any wrongdoing.
Lula Workers’ Party chairman Greisi Hoffmann said on his social media channels that Mr Bolsonaro’s lack of qualifications was an opportunity to be taught.
“The far right needs to know that political struggle takes place within the process of democracy, not through violence or coup threats,” she said. Bolsonaro “will be kicked out of the game because he doesn’t respect the rules. Not only him, but all of his coup gangs must follow the same path.”
According to Marie Santini, coordinator of Netlab, a research group at the Federal University of Bolsonaro, the trial accused Bolsonaro of being the victim of an unjust justice system and compared his fate to that of former President Donald Trump. Supporters have revived Bolsonaro’s base online, he said. Rio de Janeiro monitoring social media.
But its engagement pales in comparison to the levels seen before last year’s polarized elections.
Catia Caminha, a 67-year-old retiree from Rio de Janeiro’s Copacabana district, was stunned when she heard the news that a majority of judges had voted against Bolsonaro. She told The Associated Press that she thought the whole trial was a “clown show.”
“Anything to do with electoral courts is biased and unfavorable,” Mr Bolsonaro said. “This is terrible news for Brazil,” Caminha said.
Bolsonaro’s supporters this week demanded payment of a fine of 1.1 million reais (about $230,000) imposed by the São Paulo state government for Bolsonaro’s repeated health rule violations during the coronavirus pandemic. To help, he indicated his continued support through donations.
Political analyst Thomas Trauman said Bolsonaro aspires to be a right-wing kingmaker and his endorsement will have a lot of impact, but he will be in Florida for a few months at the beginning of Lula’s term. He said his decision to withdraw weakened him. That is reflected in the limited right-wing outrage on social media during the eligibility period and the lack of signs of protest.
“He’s small, so there won’t be a mass movement. The fact that he went to Florida and didn’t lead the opposition made him small,” Trauman said. “The opposition leader is clearly not Bolsonaro.”
As the trial drew to a close, a trumpeter standing outside the electoral court played the song that caused a sensation in last year’s presidential election, “Jair is on the verge of leaving.”