Former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro sentenced to eight years of ineligibility

Former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro was sentenced on Friday to eight years of ineligibility for “abuse of power”, because of the “false” information he disseminated on the electronic voting system before his defeat in the 2022 poll. The judgment of the seven magistrates of the Superior Electoral Tribunal (TSE) of Brasilia, decided by five votes to two, is a thunderclap in Brazilian politics. It deprives Jair Bolsonaro, 68, of a presidential candidacy in 2026 and opens the battle for his succession within the right and the far right.

The former head of state (2019-2022) was sentenced for “abuse of political power and improper use of the means of communication” for having criticized, without proof, the reliability of electronic ballot boxes, a few months before the election won by his left-wing rival Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. The court had warned before the elections that it “would not admit criminal extremism” or “fraudulent information, disinformation, with the aim of misleading voters”, launched the president of the TSE, Alexandre de Moraes.

“I have not committed any crime”

The defense of Jair Bolsonaro, absent once again at the hearing, had announced in advance that it would file an appeal before the Supreme Court in the event of conviction. “I have committed no crime by meeting with ambassadors. To take away my political rights on the charge of abuse of political power is incomprehensible,” the former army captain told reporters on Thursday. , 68 years old.

It is a speech delivered in July 2022 in front of diplomats at the presidential residence of Alvorada, and broadcast on public TV and social networks, which is at the heart of the trial. He said he wanted to “correct flaws” in electronic voting with the “participation of the armed forces”. This speech on a supposed vulnerability, conducive to fraud, of the electoral system, this nostalgic of the military dictatorship (1964-1985) will have hammered it during his campaign.

He had stoked the anger of his most radical supporters who, on January 8, a few days after Lula’s inauguration, had stormed and ransacked the seats of the executive, legislative and judicial powers in Brasilia. “Democracy has won its toughest test in decades,” Justice Minister Flavio Dino reacted on Friday after the court’s decision. The TSE judges who voted for a conviction harshly criticized the conduct of the ex-president.

Bolsonarism remains entrenched

His speech sounded like a “delusional narrative with harmful effects for democracy” and it was not an isolated act but a choice “strategically forged over time, at electoral purposes,” thundered Judge André Ramos Tavares on Thursday. Conversely, for his colleague Raul Araujo, his behavior “was not such as to justify an extreme measure of ineligibility”. The question of the leadership of the Bolsonaro camp already arises. No figure is needed for the time being as a remedy, but Bolsonarism is more rooted than ever.

Right-wing and far-right parties are even stronger in parliament than they were under Jair Bolsonaro. The latter also narrowly lost, with only 1.8% difference in the second round against Lula, back after two terms (2003-2010). Jair Bolsonaro has other legal trials ahead of him. In addition to fifteen proceedings before the electoral court, the former leader is targeted by the Supreme Court in five cases, in particular for his alleged role as the inspiration for the attacks of January 8. He faces jail.

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