The head of Brazil’s electoral authority on Wednesday rejected requests by President Jair Bolsonaro and his political party to invalidate ballots on most electronic voting machines, which would have overturned the Oct. 30 election.
Alexandre de Moraes had issued an earlier decision that implicitly raised the possibility that Bolsonaro’s liberal party could face such a challenge.
He conditioned the analysis on the request for the presentation of an amended report to include the results of the first round of elections, on 2 October, in which the party won more seats in both houses of Congress than any other, and he set a 24-hour deadline.
Earlier Wednesday, party chairman Valdemar Costa and lawyer Marcelo de Bessa held a press conference and said there would be no amended report.
“The utter malice of the plaintiff’s bizarre and illegal request … was demonstrated, both by the refusal to add to the original petition and the total absence of evidence of impropriety and the existence of a completely fraudulent narrative of the facts.” de Moraes wrote in his decision hours later.
He also ordered the suspension of state funds for the Liberal Party coalition until a fine of 23 million reais ($4.3 million) for bad faith litigation is paid.
On Tuesday, de Bessa filed a 33-page request on behalf of Bolsonaro and Costa, citing a software error in the majority of Brazil’s machines — they lack individual identification numbers in their internal logs — to argue that all the votes they recorded should be invalidated.
De Bessa said this would leave Bolsonaro with 51% of the remaining valid votes.
Neither Costa nor de Bessa has explained how the error may have affected the election results.
Independent experts consulted by the Associated Press said that although it was recently discovered, it does not affect reliability and each voting machine is still easily identifiable by other means. In his ruling on Thursday, de Moraes noted the same.
He also wrote that the challenge to the vote appeared to be aimed at encouraging anti-democratic protest movements and creating tumult, and ordered the investigation by Costa and the hired consultant to carry out an evaluation.
“De Morae’s message to the political establishment is: the game is over. Questioning the results of the election is not fair game, and people and institutions that do so will be severely punished,” said Maurício Santoro, professor of political science at the State University of Rio de Janeiro.
At the press conference on Wednesday, Costa said his intention is only to prevent the result of the 2022 vote from haunting Brazil in the future.
On October 30, the electoral authority ratified the victory of Bolsonaro’s nemesis, left-wing former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, and many of the president’s allies also quickly accepted the result.
Protesters in cities across the country have steadfastly refused to do the same, especially when Bolsonaro has refused to concede.
Bolsonaro spent more than a year claiming that Brazil’s electronic voting system is prone to fraud, without ever presenting evidence.
The South American nation began using an electronic voting system in 1996, and election security experts consider such systems less secure than hand-marked paper ballots, as they leave no auditable paper trail.
But Brazil’s system has been scrutinized by domestic and international experts who have never found evidence that it has been exploited to commit fraud.