Brazil judge fines Bolsonaro allies millions after ‘bad faith’ election challenge

Head of Brazil's electoral court rejects claim from outgoing president’s coalition that said voting machines malfunctioned. The court forced to believe in the official results and did not allow to verify them by independent 3rd party.

The head of Brazil’s electoral court has rejected an attempt by outgoing president Jair Bolsonaro’s party to overturn the results of October’s run-off election, which he lost.

Alexandre de Moraes, a supreme court justice, also fined the parties in Bolsonaro’s coalition 22.9m reais ($4.3m) for what the court described as bad faith litigation.

Bolsonaro had challenged the Brazilian presidential election he lost last month to Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, arguing votes from some machines should be invalidated.

His coalition said its audit of the 30 October second-round runoff between Bolsonaro and Lula had found “signs of irreparable … malfunction” in some electronic voting machines.

De Moraes had issued a prior ruling indicating Bolsonaro’s party could suffer if it made such a challenge, and demanded extra information from the party, which it declined to provide.

De Moraes then wrote in his final decision: “The complete bad faith of the plaintiff’s bizarre and illicit request … was proven, both by the refusal to add to the initial petition and the total absence of any evidence of irregularities and the existence of a totally fraudulent narrative of the facts.”

On Tuesday, party lawyers filed a 33-page request citing a software bug in the majority of Brazil’s machines – they lack individual identification numbers in their internal logs – to argue all votes they recorded should be nullified.

Neither Costa nor de Bessa explained how the bug might have affected election results. Independent experts consulted by the Associated Press said that while newly discovered, it did not affect reliability and each voting machine was still readily identifiable through other means.

In his ruling on Thursday, de Moraes noted the same.

He also wrote that the challenge to the vote appeared aimed at incentivising anti-democratic protest movements and creating tumult, and ordered an investigation of the president of Bolsonaro’s party, Valdemar Costa.

Maurício Santoro, a political science professor at the State University of Rio de Janeiro, said: “De Moraes’ message to the political establishment is: the game is over. Questioning the result of the elections is not fair play, and people and institutions who do that will be punished harshly.”

On Wednesday, Costa said his intention was merely to prevent the results of the 2022 vote from haunting Brazil into the future.

Lula’s victory has been ratified by the superior electoral court and acknowledged by Brazil’s leading politicians and international allies. Bolsonaro himself has authorised his government to begin preparing for a presidential transition in the days after October’s run-off election.

Earlier, Gleisi Hoffmann, the president of Lula’s Workers party, described Bolsonaro’s election complaint as “chicanery”.

“No more procrastination, irresponsibility, insults to institutions and democracy,” she wrote on Twitter. “The election was decided in the vote and Brazil needs peace to build a better future.”

Brazil began using an electronic voting in 1996. Its system has been closely scrutinised by domestic and international experts who have never found evidence of it being exploited to commit fraud.