Ex-President facing election exclusion
Bolsonaro is threatened with a total crash
By Carsten Wolf, Rio de Janeiro
May 28, 2023 at 1:21 p.m
Brazil’s electoral authority could soon exclude ex-president Bolsonaro from the upcoming elections. A drastic step, but anything but a first in the Amazon state. Right-wing populists are threatened with political extinction, but right-wing populism is not.
“I haven’t done anything wrong,” said Jair Bolsonaro, confident as ever. in March before entrepreneurs in Florida. “The Internet” just wants to “bury the rights” again. He was only unsure about his exclusion from the election: “Yes, that could happen to me,” admitted the former head of state.
Brazil’s top electoral authority (TSE) is about to decide whether ex-President Jair Bolsonaro abused his presidency to influence the late 2022 elections. If he is found guilty, he will not be allowed to vote in any elections for eight years, i.e. until 2030. There are 16 applications against him, among other things he is said to have spread fake news and increased social assistance in the election year to win votes. He lost the election to incumbent President Lula da Silva.
As drastic as it seems – Bolsonaro would not be the first. Three ex-presidents before him were declared ineligible: Collor (1992), Lula da Silva (2018) and Temer (2020). Even if it seems absurd: Bolsonaro could face the same fate as his closest rival and current President Lula da Silva. He was declared unelectable in 2018. He later regained his right to vote after a conviction against him on corruption charges was overturned.
Bolsonaro is about rather minor offenses against the electoral law: Bolsonaro has about at a lecture in front of international diplomats in July 2022 as President, cast doubt on the security of the electronic voting system. He’s been doing it for years as journalists have shown. But it would be a violation of the electoral law, sufficient for an expulsion. Bolsonaro can appeal the decision of the election authority to the Supreme Court. But his chances of success would be slim.
The winning image has suffered
It would be a serious encroachment on Brazil’s democracy. After all, Bolsonaro got almost 50 percent of the votes in the last election (49.1 percent). But the mood has turned against him in recent weeks. Since Bolsonaro was no longer president, his image as a winner has suffered. New allegations keep coming to light. He has already been interrogated by the police three times.
The police are investigating Bolsonaro for several reasons: his supporters rioted in the government district at the beginning of January and called for a military coup. Bolsonaro himself apparently wanted to keep jewelry worth millions and a luxury watch from the president’s possession for himself. He also probably left his for his trip to the USA falsify vaccination data.
Most seriously, Bolsonaro appears to have had concrete plans for a coup d’etat in Brazil should he lose the election. During a house search, the police found the ex-Justice Minister’s desk found an explosive paper. The bill would see the Supreme Court ousted and a de facto coup by Bolsonaro. Brazil was closer to a relapse into dictatorship times than many realized.
All these allegations are not part of the current decision of the electoral authority. But you can influence them. The supreme electoral authority is not neutral – even if seven lawyers decide here. Ultimately, they make a political decision. And Bolsonaro’s scandals are likely to have harmed him.
Electoral authority recently re-staffed
And something else should worry Bolsonaro: Two of the seven lawyers on the top body of the electoral authority have recently changed positions. Two more conservative judges left the panel, and at least one lawyer who was more critical of Bolsonaro moved up. This personality could decide the outcome of the process.
Behind the new appointments was the chairman of the electoral authority and Bolsonaro’s best-known opponent, the judge Alexandre de Moraes. This is controversial: some see him as the savior of democracy in Brazil. The others a new Sergio Moro. Former federal judge Moro was long considered a pioneer against corruption and sentenced ex-President Lula, among others. However, the judgments were later reversed because Moro was biased. So that this does not happen again, the electoral authority should decide as neutrally as possible.
Consequences for the extreme right
After a conviction, Bolsonaro could try to slip into the victim role. He could present himself as being persecuted by “mainstream politics” and try to continue to influence politics, like the electoral law expert Rodrigo Cyrineu in a video interview supposed. Perhaps, as an election worker, he is trying to send one of his sons, Flávio or Eduardo, into the running for the next elections in 2026.
It is more likely that he would be largely powerless – with no political office and no party behind him. The media would probably hardly report on him anymore. That’s why others have long been involved as opposition leaders, such as the governor of São Paulo, Tarcísio de Freitas. Tarcísio is one of the most promising possible successors to Bolsonaro in the presidency and is more of a moderate conservative.
Is Bolsonaro going the Lula way?
Even if no member of the Bolsonaro clan can inherit the father, Bolsonarism should live on without Bolsonaro, he said Journalist Niklas Franzen. Majorities can be found in Brazil with right-wing extremist and ultra-Christian positions. Bolsonaro proved that. This camp also has the majority in the current Congress. And President Lula will have a hard time securing majorities for his more progressive agenda.
There is another reason why Bolsonaro is afraid that things will be similar to his adversary Lula. Not only was he declared unelectable, he was later jailed for a year and a half. Bolsonaro had always emphasized that an “ex-con” could not become president. It is unclear whether his followers will take him literally when the same thing happens to him.