Former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has been barred from office until 2030 for abuse of power, after making unsubstantiated claims about the country’s voting system.
Jair Bolsonaro was found guilty of abusing his authority and misusing public media prior to the 2016 presidential election. He was accused of undermining Brazilian democracy by asserting falsely that the used electronic ballots were susceptible to hacking and fraud.
Five of seven judges declared the former president guilty, effectively ending any chance of a political comeback in the 2026 election. Two justices sided with Bolsonaro, stating that he had the right to express his views freely.
This disqualifies the right-wing populist from running in the next presidential election.
A case centered on “election fraud” claims
The ban is applicable to the presidential election date of 2 October 2022. If the verdict is permitted to stand, Bolsonaro will be ineligible to run for president in 2026, but he will be eligible to run again in 2030. In addition, he will be banned from municipal elections in 2024 and 2028.
Bolsonaro referred to the decision as a “stab in the back” and vowed to continue advancing right-wing politics in Brazil.
The case against the ex-president centered on a speech he delivered in 2022 while he was still president. On 18 July, he invited foreign diplomats to his residence in Brasilia’s capital, where he falsely claimed that Brazil’s electronic voting machines were vulnerable to hacking and susceptible to widespread fraud.
Bolsonaro is also alleged to have claimed that in 2018, voting machines altered voters’ choices in favor of his opponent, that Brazilian voting machines cannot be audited, and that electoral and judicial authorities were safeguarding “terrorists,” according to the report.
All of these allegations of defects in the electoral system have been refuted by the Brazilian electoral authorities.
Bolsonaro claimed that he “simply explained how elections work in Brazil” and that he did not criticize or attack the electoral system. However, the speech occurred in the midst of a divisive presidential campaign in which Bolsonaro’s arch-rival, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, was challenging him for the top position. Lula won the election by a narrow margin in a runoff held on October 30 after a bitterly contested election.
Bolsonaro never publicly conceded defeat and departed Brazil for Florida two days prior to Lula’s inauguration.
Bolsonaro appeared to accept his destiny, asserting on Friday that he would concentrate on campaigning for other candidates on the right. Nonetheless, he plans to appeal the decision to Brazil’s Supreme Court, despite the fact that the court took strong measures to limit his leadership. He has criticised the Supreme Court harshly for years, labelling some justices “terrorists” and accusing them of attempting to influence the vote against him.
Bolsonaro would face an additional 15 cases in the electoral court, including allegations that he improperly used public funds to influence the vote and that his campaign conducted a coordinated disinformation campaign. He is also the subject of multiple criminal investigations, including whether he incited his supporters to assault Brazil’s government buildings on January 8 and whether he participated in a scheme to falsify his vaccine records. (Bolsonaro refused the Covid-19 vaccination.) A conviction in any criminal case would also disqualify him from office, in addition to the possibility of imprisonment.
In 2018, the election of Jair Bolsonaro as president of Brazil was a surprise. Former Army commander and far-right extremist congressman, he rode a populist anti-corruption wave to the presidency. His single term was marked from the start by controversy, including a sharp increase in deforestation in the Amazon rainforest, a hands-off approach to the pandemic that killed nearly 700,000 Brazilians, and harsh assaults against the press, the judiciary, and the left.
A recent ruling against Bolsonaro has sent shockwaves through Brazilian politics, upending the political landscape of the largest nation in Latin America. Bolsonaro, well-known for his divisive rhetoric, scientific skepticism, and right-wing ideology, has been a dominant force in Brazil’s conservative movement, driving it further to the right.
Bolsonaro’s influence has remained significant despite losing the 2022 election to Lula by a narrow margin. Tarcsio Gomes de Freitas, the right-wing governor of So Paulo, is viewed as a more moderate and electable candidate for the 2026 election by conservative leaders.
Bolsonaro’s prospective successors are the subject of much speculation, with suggestions that his wife, Michelle, or his sons could run for president. Bolsonaro stated recently that his wife lacks the required experience, “but she is an excellent campaigner.”
To conclude, the barring of former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro from office until 2030 for abuse of power has major implications, given his legal troubles and controversial presidency. This ruling reshapes Brazilian politics and raises speculation about his successor and the country’s future direction.