On Friday, far-right former Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro was barred from running for office again until 2030 after a panel of judges found he abused his power and cast unfounded doubt on the country’s electronic voting system.
The decision turns the 68-year-old’s political future upside down and likely eliminates any chance of him regaining power.
Five judges from the country’s highest electoral court agreed that Bolsonaro used government communication channels to promote his campaign and sowed mistrust about the vote. Two justices voted against the measure.
“This decision will end Bolsonaro’s chances of being president again, and he knows it,” said Carlos Melo, a professor of political science at Sao Paulo’s Insper University. «After this, he will try to stay out of jail, he will pick some of his allies to keep his political capital, but it is very unlikely that he will return to the presidency.»
The case centered on a July 18, 2022 meeting in which Bolsonaro used government employees, the state television channel and the presidential palace in Brasilia to tell foreign ambassadors that the country’s electronic voting system was rigged. .
In her deciding vote that formed a majority, Judge Carmen Lucía, who is also a Supreme Court magistrate, said that «the facts are incontrovertible.»
“The meeting took place. He was summoned by the then president. Your content is available. It was examined by everyone, and there was never a denial that it happened,” he said.
Alexandre de Moraes, also a Supreme Court justice, said the decision represents a rejection of «populism reborn from the flames of hateful and undemocratic speech that promotes egregious misinformation.»
Speaking to reporters in Minas Gerais, Bolsonaro lamented that the trial was unfair and politically motivated.
“We are going to talk to the lawyers. Life goes on, ”she said when asked what his next step would be. She called the ruling an attack on Brazilian democracy. «It’s a pretty tough time.»
Melo said it is «highly unlikely» that the decision will be overturned. He removes Bolsonaro from the 2024 and 2028 municipal elections, as well as the 2026 general elections. The former president also faces other legal problems, including criminal investigations. Future criminal convictions could extend his ban by years and put him in prison.
Former President Fernando Collor de Mello and current President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva have been found ineligible in the past, but Bolsonaro’s case marks the first time a president has been suspended for electoral violations rather than a criminal offense. Brazilian law prohibits candidates with criminal convictions from running for office.
Lula’s eligibility was reinstated by Brazil’s highest court after rulings that then-judge and now senator Sergio Moro was biased when he sentenced the leftist leader to nearly 10 years in prison for corruption and money laundering.
Maria Maris, a 58-year-old engineer from Rio de Janeiro, welcomed the ruling, though said she suspected it might have been politically motivated.
“My fear is that Bolsonaro will appeal and run in the next presidential election, even though he was ineligible today,” Maris said.
Bolsonaro has a ceremonial leadership role within his Liberal Party and has traveled Brazil criticizing Lula, who won last October’s election by the narrowest margin in more than three decades.
Thousands of Bolsonaro supporters stormed government buildings on January 8, a week after Lula took power, in a bid to oust the leftist from power. The rapid imprisonment and prosecution of hundreds of those who participated had a chilling effect on their rejection of the election results. Federal police are investigating Bolsonaro’s role in inciting the uprising; He denied doing anything wrong.
The president of Lula’s Workers’ Party, Gleisi Hoffmann, said on her social media channels that Bolsonaro’s ineligibility offers a teachable moment.
“The extreme right needs to know that the political fight is carried out within the democratic process, and not with violence and threats of a coup,” he said. Bolsonaro “will be out of the game because he does not respect the rules. Not only him, his entire gang of coup plotters has to follow the same path.
The trial has reinvigorated Bolsonaro’s base online, with supporters claiming he is the victim of an unfair judicial system and comparing his fate to that of former President Donald Trump, according to Marie Santini, coordinator of NetLab, a research group at Federal University. river. de Janeiro that monitors social networks.
This week, his supporters showed their continued support with contributions to help him pay 1.1 million reais (about $230,000) in fines imposed by the Sao Paulo state government for Bolsonaro’s repeated violations of health protocols. during the COVID-19 pandemic.
While Bolsonaro aspires to be the king of the right, and his endorsement will carry significant weight, his decision to move to Florida for several months at the start of Lula’s term undermined him, said Thomas Traumann, a political analyst. That is reflected in limited outrage from the right on social media during the eligibility trial, and no sign of protest.
“There will not be a mass movement, because he has diminished in size. The fact that he went to Florida and did not lead the opposition made him lose size,” Traumann said. «The opposition leader is clearly not Bolsonaro.»
As the trial drew to a close, a trumpeter outside the electoral court played the song that became a sensation during last year’s presidential race: «It is Time for Jair to Go Away.»