Photo: Deccan Herald
The former president of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, was barred from running for political office until 2030. The Superior Electoral Tribunal (SET), voted 5-2, found that Bolsonaro had abused his power and made unprecedented doubts about the electronic voting system.
Undermining the Electoral System:
Three months before the 2022 election, Bolsonaro invited foreign diplomats to discuss how the electronic voting system was unreliable. Bolsonaro’s own government agencies would later certify the election results as legitimate. Despite this, Bolsonaro continued claiming election fraud and did not recognize Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva as the new president. This unfounded narrative resulted in Bolsonaro supporters storming federal buildings in Brasilia on January 8.
Ruling and Response:
The electoral tribunal found that Bolsonaro had violated various election laws and had compromised public trust in the electoral system. Furthermore, Bolsonaro used government resources to advance his election system narrative. Bolsonaro’s legal team will seek to appeal this ruling in the Supreme Court, but this is unlikely to succeed.
Impact on the Far-Right Movement:
The tribunal’s decision has profound implications for Brazil’s far-right. Since Bolsonaro is the main figurehead in Brazilian far-right politics, it will be difficult for said political movement to have an immediate replacement. Bolsonaro seems to have no political allies outside his family, so replacing him will be difficult.
There are only two real possibilities that can emerge from this ruling. The more probable outcome is that Bolsonaro’s movement likely fractures. Since Bolsonaro does not have direct power, supporters, and politicians shift their support elsewhere. However, there is a possibility Bolsonaro’s party, the Liberal Party, becomes more radical and a power vacuum is filled by someone else within. A less likely result is that Bolsonaro’s wife or his son, a politician, launch a presidential campaign and win the presidency. Under any possible circumstance, Bolsonaro ends up having no real power.
Preservation of Democracy:
Bolsonaro’s barring from political office signifies the preservation of democracy within Brazil. SET sent a solid message to Brazilian politicians that there will be consequences if there are any further attempts to undermine a secure election system. In addition, the ruling demonstrates that institutions in Brazil remain strong in the wake of radical populism. Considering the amount of power Bolsonaro and his supporters wielded, this ruling demonstrates that no one in Brazil is above the law. With such a firm decision, Brazil can further solidify its position as the leading power in South America.
Legal Troubles Ahead:
The SET's ruling may only be the beginning of Bolsonaro's legal troubles. Bolsonaro faces criminal investigations into inciting the January 8th attacks, faking coronavirus certificates, and receiving illegal jewelry gifts from the Saudi government. Bolsonaro has denied all misconduct claims. His allies have claimed these legal disputes are a witch-hunt to eliminate Bolsonaro’s political influence. As the legal process unfolds, the outcome of these investigations will undoubtedly shape Bolsonaro's future and further impact Brazil's political landscape.
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