More than three weeks after losing a re-election bid, President Jair Bolsonaro on Tuesday blamed a software bug and demanded the electoral authority annul votes cast on most of the Brazilian nation’s electronic voting machines, although independent experts say the error does not affect the reliability of the results. .

Such an action would leave Bolsonaro with 51% of the remaining valid votes, and a re-election victory, Marcelo de Bessa, the lawyer who submitted the 33-page petition on behalf of the president and his Liberal Party, told reporters.

The electoral authority has already declared victory for Bolsonaro’s nemesis, former left-wing president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, and even many of the president’s allies have accepted the results. Protesters in cities across the country have adamantly refused to do the same, particularly with Bolsonaro refusing to budge.

Liberal Party leader Valdemar Costa and an auditor hired by the party told reporters in Brasilia that their assessment found that all machines dating from before 2020, almost 280,000 of them, or around 59% of the total used in the second round of October 30, they lacked individual identification. numbers in internal records.

Neither explained how that might have affected the election results, but said they were asking the electoral authority to invalidate all votes cast on those machines.

The complaint characterized the error as an «irreparable breach due to a malfunction» that called into question the authenticity of the results.

Immediately afterwards, the head of the electoral authority issued a ruling that implicitly raised the possibility that Bolsonaro’s own party could face such a challenge.

Alexandre de Moraes said the court would not consider the complaint unless the party offered an amended report within 24 hours that would include the results of the first round of elections on October 2, in which the Liberal Party won more seats in both houses of Congress than any other. .

The bug was not previously known, but experts said it doesn’t affect the results either. Each voting machine can still be easily identified through other means, such as its city and voting district, according to Wilson Ruggiero, a professor of computer engineering and digital systems at the Polytechnic School of the University of Sao Paulo.

Diego Aranha, an associate professor of systems security at Aarhus University in Denmark who has participated in official security tests of Brazil’s electoral system, agreed.

«It doesn’t undermine reliability or credibility in any way,» Ruggiero told The Associated Press by phone. «The key point that guarantees the correctness is the digital signature associated with each voting machine.»

While the machines do not have individual identification numbers in their internal records, those numbers do appear on the printed receipts that show the sum of all the votes cast for each candidate, Aranha said, adding that the error was only caught thanks to the election office efforts. authority to provide greater transparency.

Bolsonaro’s defeat by less than two points against da Silva on October 30 was the narrowest margin since Brazil’s return to democracy in 1985. While the president has not explicitly complained, he has denied concede defeat or congratulate their opponent, leaving room for supporters to draw their own conclusions.

Many have been protesting relentlessly, denouncing electoral fraud and demanding the intervention of the armed forces.

Dozens of Bolsonaro supporters gathered outside a news conference Tuesday, decked out in the green and yellow of the Brazilian flag and singing patriotic songs. Some verbally assaulted and pushed the journalists who were trying to enter the premises.

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

Brazil began using an electronic voting system in 1996, and election security experts consider these systems less secure than hand-marked paper ballots because they leave no auditable paper trail. But Brazil’s system has been closely scrutinized by national and international experts who have never found evidence that it is being exploited to commit fraud.

Senate President Rodrigo Pacheco said Tuesday afternoon that the election results are «unquestionable.»

Bolsonaro has been almost completely secluded in the official residence since his defeat on October 30, inviting widespread speculation that he is down or plotting to cling to power.

In an interview with O Globo newspaper, Vice President Hamilton Mourão attributed Bolsonaro’s absence to erysipelas, a skin infection on the legs that he said prevents the president from wearing pants.

But his son Eduardo Bolsonaro, a federal deputy, has been more direct.

“We always mistrust these machines. … We want a massive audit,” the young Bolsonaro said last week at a conference in Mexico City. “There is very strong evidence to order an investigation of the Brazilian elections.”

For its audit, the Liberal Party hired the Legal Vote Institute, a group that has been critical of the current system, saying it defies the law by not providing a digital record of every individual vote.

in a separate report submitted earlier this monthBrazil’s military said there were flaws in the country’s electoral systems and proposed improvements, but did not justify claims of fraud by some of Bolsonaro’s supporters.

Analysts have suggested that the military, which has been a key component of Bolsonaro’s administration, may have maintained a veneer of uncertainty on the issue to avoid upsetting the president. In a subsequent statement, the Defense Ministry stressed that while it had not found any evidence of fraud in the vote count, it could not rule out that possibility.