Far-right former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is found guilty of abuse of power by a majority of the country’s electoral court.
Former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s political career was shattered on Friday after the country’s federal electoral court (TSE) barred the far-right nationalist from holding public office until 2030 for his behavior during last year’s contentious election.
Five out of seven justices voted to convict the 68-year-old Bolsonaro for abuse of power and misuse of the media over charges whereby in July, before the 2022 election, he summoned ambassadors to vent unfounded claims about Brazil’s electronic voting system.
The former President is being tried by the tribunal on allegations that he abused his position and state media to spread false information about security holes in Brazil’s electronic voting system.
A week after the inauguration of leftist Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Bolsonaro’s supporters invaded the presidential palace, Congress, and Supreme Court on January 8. Prosecutors have connected these actions to Bolsonaro’s statements. Lula had defeated Bolsonaro in last October’s elections.
After hearing the case’s testimony on Tuesday, the judges began issuing their decisions one by one.
The decision paves the way for a new political right leader to run for president in 2026.
Instead of attending court in Brasilia, Bolsonaro traveled to Belo Horizonte in southeast Brazil, where he was scheduled to have lunch with Liberal Party members. He argued his innocence to reporters on Thursday, saying, “Wanting to take away my political rights for abuse of political power is inexplicable.”
It is worth noting that this is not the end of Bolsonaro’s troubles, as he is still facing multiple criminal probes that could put him behind bars.
The accusations stem from a publicly broadcast meeting that Bolsonaro had with foreign diplomats in July 2022, three months before he lost the presidency to Lula.
With a PowerPoint presentation but no concrete evidence to support his claims that election transparency was compromised by the use of electronic voting machines since 1996, Bolsonaro spoke to the assembled ambassadors for nearly an hour.
Bolsonaro was found guilty on Tuesday by the case’s chief judge, Benedito Goncalves, who said Bolsonaro had used “violent speech and lies” that “endangered the credibility” of Brazil’s electoral process.
Goncalves said the briefing “served to incite a state of collective paranoia” about elections at a time Brazil was deeply polarized. “He instigated a belief that there was a real threat the results of the 2022 election would be adulterated,” said the judge. “It was extremely harmful to the democratic environment.”
Judge Floriano Marques also voted on Thursday for conviction and posed the question, “What could be more serious (than) a head of state who, with electoral objectives, mobilizes the apparatus of the Republic to intentionally convey the idea that Brazilian elections are not clean?”
However, teammate Raul Araujo cast a vote for acquittal. According to him, the “gravity of the behavior was not sufficient to justify the extreme measure” of being disqualified from voting.
Meanwhile, Tarcisio Vieira, Bolsonaro’s attorney, has declared that he will take any guilty verdict to the Supreme Court on appeal.