Election officials and senior politicians have criticized Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro after the far-right leader summoned foreign diplomats to the presidential palace and made baseless allegations about the integrity of the upcoming elections.
Bolsonaro told them Brazil’s electronic voting system, which has been in undisputed use since 1996, is vulnerable. The comments raised concerns that the populist politician might try to discredit the democratic process if he loses in October amid poor election results.
The unsubstantiated claims were immediately refuted by the Supreme Electoral Court of Brazil (TSE), the body overseeing the elections.
The TSE published a list of 20 rebuttals to Bolsonaro’s remarks, and court President Edson Fachin called them “unacceptable election denial.”
“It’s time to say enough of this disinformation,” Fachin said. “It’s also time to say no to authoritarian populism.”
The Senate President also dismissed Bolsonaro’s allegations, saying there was “no legitimate reason or reason” to question the effectiveness of the electoral process.
“The National Congress, whose current composition was elected under the modern electoral system, has an obligation to reassure the population that the electronic ballot box will give the country a true representation of the people’s wishes,” said Rodrigo Pacheco.
Bolsonaro’s decision to step up criticism in front of a foreign audience could be linked to his poor showing in the polls.
Most give former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva a double-digit lead and his supporters are optimistic he could win even in the first round and avoid a runoff.
The first round will take place on October 2nd, with a possible runoff election scheduled for October 30th.
Bolsonaro, a Donald Trump supporter, has previously questioned the trustworthiness of electronic ballot boxes even after winning easily in 2018 and later attempted to pass legislation mandating a return to paper voting.
That attempt was declared unconstitutional in 2020, and another attempt to include paper ballots along with electronic voting was defeated by Congress a year later.
His speech to diplomats on Monday included attacks on judges and TSE officials charged with reviewing the results of elections not only for the president but also for Congress and 27 state governors.
The address also focused on a 2018 investigation into an attempted hack of the voting system. An official investigation concluded that there was no risk to the count or the results.
Bolsonaro restricted media access to his 30-minute speech at the Planalto, the presidential palace. However, it was broadcast live on state television, prompting some opposition MPs to claim they were taking him to court for misusing government resources.
Lula said it was a shame Brazil didn’t have a leader more concerned with issues like jobs, development and hunger. “Instead, he tells lies about our democracy,” Lula tweeted.