Brazil’s Bolsonaro meets diplomats to sow doubts on election

SAO PAULO (AP) — Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro on Monday invited dozens of diplomats to the presidential palace to present claims regarding supposed vulnerabilities of the country’s electronic voting system, which electoral authorities have already debunked repeatedly.

Once again, the far-right leader didn’t present any evidence for his claims, which have drawn criticism from the members of the electoral authority and analysts who fear he is laying the groundwork to reject election results.

Bolsonaro faces an uphill battle to win a second term, with all polls showing him trailing well behind former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who governed Brazil between 2003-2010.

Bolsonaro’s address to diplomats was aired on the state television channel for almost one hour. During that time, he cited a Federal Police report on an alleged hacking into electronic voting machines. Brazil’s electoral authority said in August 2021 that investigators have never relayed to it any indication of fraud.

Brazil has voted with an electronic system since 1996, and authorities have never found any evidence of widespread fraud. Bolsonaro has claimed he was denied outright victory in the first round of the 2018 presidential vote without need for a runoff and, at times, said he possessed proof — which he has never presented.

“An electronic system cannot give 100% guarantee of security (for voters),” said Bolsonaro.

Bolsonaro also argued that Brazil’s electoral authority should heed advice from the military on potential improvements for the voting system.

“The armed forces, whose commander-in-chief is me… no one wants more stability in our country than us,” Brazil’s president said.

Bolsonaro also reiterated critiques of Supreme Court justices, some of whom are also members of the nation’s electoral authority, suggesting they will favor da Silva.

“People who owe favors to them (da Silva and his Workers’ Party) do not want a transparent electoral system,” Bolsonaro told the assembled diplomats at the meeting in capital Brasilia. “They insist all the time that after the election results are announced your heads-of-state need to recognize them.”

Brazil’s presidential palace didn’t provide information regarding how many diplomats attended the gathering. Brazilian media said about 70 diplomats, including dozens of ambassadors, attended.

Shortly after the encounter finished, Brazil’s electoral authority issued a statement to once more debunk several falsehoods about the country’s elections — including many that Bolsonaro mentions.

Rodrigo Pacheco, the president of Brazil’s Senate, said after Bolsonaro’s meeting that the country’s Congress, “whose members were elected with the current and modern electoral system, is obligated to tell the population that the electronic voting machines will give the nation a trustworthy result.”

“The safety of the electronic machines and the fairness of the electoral process can no longer be put in doubt. There is no just cause and no reason for that. That questioning is bad for Brazil in every respect,” Pacheco added.

Pacheco was elected for the job with Bolsonaro’s support, but last week met with his adversary da Silva in Brasilia.

Non-profit Human Rights Watch said the meeting is yet more evidence that Bolsonaro “continues his dangerous disinformation campaign about the electoral system.”

“The international community should make it clear that any attempt to undermine the democratic system and the rule of law is unacceptable,” it said on Twitter.

In a separate event, the Supreme Court Justice Luiz Edson Fachin, who currently heads Brazil’s electoral authority, said at the local bar association of Parana state that “there is unacceptable electoral denialism by one public figure.”

Fachin added the person is making “very serious allegations of fraud without any evidence.”

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