Jair Bolsonaro’s party challenges election defeat to Lula

The party of Brazil’s outgoing president Jair Bolsonaro has challenged the outcome of the runoff election he narrowly lost last month, calling for the cancellation of ballots from electronic voting machines with alleged malfunctions.

The far-right populist was defeated on October 31 by his leftist rival and former national leader Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who picked up 50.9 per cent of votes in the tightest presidential election in the history of the South American country.

Bolsonaro’s Liberal party, or PL, is now seeking to overturn the result, with a complaint filed on Tuesday that claimed to have found “serious and irremediable inconsistencies” in older models of Brazil’s digital ballot boxes.

A study commissioned by the PL said a software defect meant it was not possible to individually identify machines manufactured before 2020, which accounted for almost 60 per cent of all those used in the poll.

Consequently, it argued, votes cast through these machines should be “invalidated”, a move the authors said would hand victory to Bolsonaro.

While the development is the first clear sign that Bolsonaro intends to formally contest the electoral failure in a manner similar to that of Donald Trump in the 2020 US presidential vote, there was scepticism about the chances of the effort succeeding. High-ranking Bolsonaro allies have accepted his defeat and Lula has been internationally recognised as the winner.

Rather, political analysts believe it is a tactic by the rightwing nationalist to appeal to his supporters, many of whom believe — without evidence — that Lula fraudulently won the election.

Although roadblock demonstrations against the election result have mostly died down at Bolsonaro’s own request, a hard core of supporters has continued to hold protests outside army barracks, urging military intervention to prevent Lula taking office.

“It won’t work in terms of changing the outcome of the election. It’s pretty clear that the electoral authorities have full confidence in the process as it happened,” said Eduardo Mello, a political scientist at the Getúlio Vargas Foundation.

“Bolsonaro is clearly aiming to become the foremost leader of the anti-Lula opposition and for that he needs to keep his base mobilised and keep casting doubt on the electoral system,” he added.

The head of Brazil’s top electoral court, Alexandre de Moraes, said the complaint would only be considered if a new report was submitted, including results from the first round of the election, because the same machines were used in both ballots. He gave the party 24 hours to respond.

However, such a move could prove undesirable for the PL, whose strong first-round performance will make it the single largest party in Brazil’s Congress.

Bolsonaro, who has long questioned the integrity of the country’s voting set-up, took two days to speak in public following his defeat and still has not explicitly conceded or congratulated Lula.

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