Brazil’s former President Jair Bolsonaro wasn’t called the Latin American Donald Trump without reason. Following in Trump’s footsteps, Bolsonaro who lost a bid to be re-elected to the presidency, immediately questioned the election, alleging that some voting machines had malfunctioned. His coalition claimed that its audit of the October 30 second-round runoff had found signs of irreparable malfunction, a charge that was dismissed as baseless by observers.
Now the head of Brazil’s electoral court has held the challenge by the coalition to be a case of “bad faith litigation” and fined Bolsonaro’s allies the equivalent of a whopping $4.3 million.
Supreme Court Justice Alexandre de Moraes, who heads the electoral court, had made it clear to Bolsonaro’s allies when they filed their petition that they would have to provide complete evidence to back up their claim, which they declined to do. He ruled: “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.” This is a sentiment echoed by Bolsonaro’s political rivals; the head of the presidential winner Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s left-wing party described the malfunction allegation as chicanery.
Like India, Brazil uses electronic voting and has been doing so since 1996. There have never been complaints of the sort of malfunction the Bolsonaro camp cited in their petition. Voted out of power, Bolsonaro has played to the script the man he is often compared to writing after his loss in the American presidential election. With his right-wing ideology and his dismissal of climate change and environmental imperatives, Bolsonaro is likely to nip at the heels of the government in power, just as Trump has done in America.
Environmentalists have rejoiced at his defeat, for it is almost certainly another term for him would have ensured the destruction of the Amazon rain forest and a setback to climate mitigation efforts, but the Brazilian leader is not without support in his country. The second-round runoff saw a surprisingly strong showing by him belying pollsters who had predicted an easy win for Lula.
Like Trump, he sees himself as a friend of Israel and displays similar authoritarian tendencies. He is a misogynist who believes women should not get the same pay as men because they “get pregnant” and once scandalised people by saying a former Minister was “too ugly to rape”. While the verdict of the electoral court is a definite setback, the irrepressible Bolsonaro is bound to spring back with the brand of politics that had won him success in the past. This story has not yet ended.