Brazil’s former president Jair Bolsonaro has been barred from public office until 2030 after a panel of judges concluded he abused power and cast unfounded doubts on the country’s electronic voting system.
Thousands of the far-right nationalist’s supporters stormed government buildings in Brasilia on 8 January a week after his left-wing opponent Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva – known as Lula – was sworn in as president.
Five out of seven judges from Brazil’s federal electoral court (TSE) voted to convict the 68-year-old, stunting his political future and likely ending any chance of him regaining power.
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How Bolsonaro supporters stormed Congress
The ruling removes the main challenge to Lula and opens up fresh space on Brazil’s right.
The case focused on a meeting on 18 July last year where Mr Bolsonaro used government staff, the state TV channel and the presidential palace in Brasilia to tell foreign ambassadors the country’s electronic voting system was rigged.
The majority opinion in the trial was written by Justice Benedito Goncalves, who said Mr Bolsonaro summoned the ambassadors to “spread doubts and incite conspiracy theories.” Two conservative-leading judges dissented.
Justice Alexandre de Moraes, who has opposed Mr Bolsonaro and currently heads the TSE, joined the majority and said the former leader had spread a “chain of lies and fraudulent news” in his “radical” speech to the ambassadors.
Mr Bolsonaro has denied wrongdoing and his lawyers have pledged to make an appeal to the Supreme Court.
On Friday Mr Bolsonaro described the decision as a “stab in the back” and said he would keep working to advance right-wing politics in Brazil.
He faces multiple criminal probes that could extend his ban by years and see him put behind bars.
The end for Bolsonaro?
Although his own hopes of defeating Lula in 2026 may be over, Mr Bolsonaro has said he would support his wife Michelle as candidate.
The political novice is an avowed evangelical Christian who could win support among Brazil’s religious right.
“‘Our dream is more alive than ever,'” she wrote on Instagram after the ruling. “I am at your command, my CAPTAIN.”
But Mr Bolsonaro could yet make a comeback – Lula was in jail as recently as 2019, before his corruption conviction was overturned, and he is now president.
A fan of former US president Donald Trump, Mr Bolsonaro’s time in office was marred by international criticism over his laissez-faire approach to COVID restrictions, his poor stewardship of the Amazon rainforest and his evidence-free attacks on Brazil’s electoral system.
Written by: Newsroom