Brazil’s Bolsonaro Barred From Running for Office for 8 Years

Tom Ozimek
By Tom Ozimek
June 30, 2023Americas

Former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s political career faced a major setback on Friday as Brazil’s federal electoral court (TSE) barred him from public office until 2030 over his challenge to last year’s election results.

In a ruling Friday, the 68-year old conservative firebrand was convicted by the court for abuse of power and misuse of the media when, on the eve of Brazil’s 2022 election, he publicly called into question the reliability of the country’s electronic voting system.

Specifically, Bolsonaro was accused of undermining democracy in Brazil by claiming that electronic ballots were vulnerable to fraud and hacking. Five of the electoral court’s seven judges voted to banish him from politics for eight years, while two voted against.

Bolsonaro’s lawyers, who have argued that his remarks had no impact on the election results, said Friday that they would appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.

If the verdict stands, however, Bolsonaro will be prohibited from being a presidential candidate in the 2026 election, though he’ll be eligible to run in 2030. He’ll also be barred from taking part in municipal elections in 2024 and 2028.

Bolsonaro, an admirer of former President Donald Trump, vowed to continue advancing conservative politics in Brazil and on Friday called the TSE ruling a “stab in the back.”

If the verdict stands on appeal, his leftist rival Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva will not have to face his main foe if he runs for re-election in 2026.

In October 2022, Lula narrowly defeated Bolsonaro in a runoff presidential election. Members of Lula’s administration celebrated Friday’s ruling.

“Some important messages come from the TSE trial: lying is not a legitimate tool for exercising a public function and politics is not governed by the law of the jungle,” Justice Minister Flavio Dino said in a tweet. “Democracy has overcome its toughest stress test in decades.”

The electoral court’s decision to bar Bolsonaro from seeking public office for eight years was in part based on his controversial decision to summon foreign ambassadors several weeks before the first round of the 2022 election and make critical claims against Brazil’s electronic voting system.

One of the judges who cast a vote against Bolsonaro argued that with the move to summon the ambassadors, Bolsonaro tried to get an unfair advantage in the election and made Brazil appear like “a little banana republic.”

Bolsonaro, a former army captain, faces other legal troubles in Brazil in the form of multiple criminal investigations that could land him in prison.

One of these is a probe into his COVID-19 vaccination records, another is an investigation into alleged voter suppression, as well as allegations of embezzlement of foreign gifts.

Bolsonaro has denied any wrongdoing in those cases.

Bolsonaro’s Home Raided

Brazilian police in May raided Bolsonaro’s home, arrested his aides, and seized his cell phone as part of an investigation into his COVID-19 vaccination records.

Bolsonaro, who vowed never to get a COVID-19 vaccine, was registered as vaccinated in health records made public in February.

Federal police had reportedly found evidence of tampering with Bolsonaro’s vaccine records, according to Supreme Court documents.

Bolsonaro confirmed the raid on his home in Brasilia to journalists and reiterated that he had never taken a COVID-19 vaccine. He also denied any role in the alleged forging of documents.

“For my part, there was nothing falsified. I didn’t take the vaccine. Period,” he said.

Bolsonaro’s personal security officers Max Guilherme and Sergio Cordeiro, who have stayed on as part of his detail after he left office, were also arrested in the operation.

They were accused of falsifying their vaccine records before flying with Bolsonaro to the United States in December 2022.

The raid on Bolsonaro’s home sparked comments drawing a parallel between the FBI executing a search warrant at Trump’s home in Florida amid allegations that he mishandled classified documents.

Trump has since been indicted in the case, with the former president denying any wrongdoing and describing the actions against him as a political “witch hunt.”

‘Leader of the Opposition’

Bolsonaro attended the U.S. Conservative Political Action Conference on March 4, 2023, where he told The Epoch Times in an interview that he feared that actions would be taken to hamstring his political involvement.

He said he planned to “once again be the leader of the opposition to the current government” after returning from the United States to Brazil later that month, while warning he might face action from the judicial branch.

“I have not been indicted. There’s nothing against me when it comes to corruption. But, unfortunately, there might be some forceful measure taken against me, which would be completely unfair,” he said.

Bolsonaro said in the interview that many congressmen support him and are against the “communism” and “corruption” of the new administration in Brazil.

Lula’s victory was fiercely contested by Bolsonaro’s supporters, which led to Jan. 8 demonstrations and the breach of Brazil’s federal buildings in the capital.

That incident also drew parallels to the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol breach, which came as Trump supporters called into question the legitimacy of the 2020 election, which Trump continues to insist was “rigged.”

Autumn Spredemann, Roman Balmakov, and Reuters contributed to this report.

From The Epoch Times

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