Judges are set to start delivering their verdicts Tuesday as Brazilian ex-president Jair Bolsonaro’s trial resumes in electoral court on charges of abusing his office, a case that could sideline him from the 2026 elections.
The Superior Electoral Tribunal (TSE) is trying the far-right former president over a televised meeting he held with foreign diplomats in July 2022 — three months before his election defeat to leftist Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva — at which Bolsonaro made unproven allegations of security flaws in Brazil’s electronic voting system.
The court’s seven judges are expected to begin handing down their rulings one by one when the trial resumes at 7:00 pm (2200 GMT), starting with the lead judge on the case, Benedito Goncalves.
Insiders say the court is almost certain to convict Bolsonaro, who skipped the first session of the trial in Brasilia last week to meet supporters and attend events in the southern city of Porto Alegre.
“Everyone is saying I’m going to be found ineligible” to run for office, Bolsonaro acknowledged in an interview with newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo.
“I’m not going to lose hope… I’m going to continue doing my part,” added the 68-year-old ex-president, who remains a powerful — if divisive — force in Brazil.
Bolsonaro faces an eight-year ban on running for public office if found guilty of the charges: abusing his office and misusing state media.
A third court date has been scheduled for Thursday if the judges do not finish delivering their rulings, and the case could potentially be extended longer.
Bolsonaro will appeal to the Supreme Court if convicted, his lawyer has said.
– ‘False impression’ –
At the July 2022 meeting, Bolsonaro spent nearly an hour making his argument to the assembled ambassadors, armed with a PowerPoint presentation but no hard evidence to back his claim that the electronic voting machines Brazil has used since 1996 compromised the “transparency” of the elections.
Opponents say the event violated electoral law, given that it was organized with state resources, held in the official presidential residence and broadcast live on public TV in the middle of the polarizing election campaign.
The briefing “was aimed at giving the false impression the voting process was obscure, rigged to manipulate the results and award a fraudulent victory to (his) adversary,” prosecutor Paulo Gonet Branco said at last week’s opening hearing.
He linked the former president’s statements to the riotous aftermath of the elections, when Bolsonaro supporters invaded the presidential palace, Congress and Supreme Court on January 8, a week after Lula’s inauguration.
Bolsonaro’s lawyer, Tarcisio Vieira, rejected the allegations.
Both Bolsonaro’s unsubstantiated talk of election fraud and the January 8 riots drew widespread comparisons to his political role model, Donald Trump, and the latter’s bid to hang onto power after his loss in the 2020 US presidential election.
Bolsonaro, who spent three months in the United States after his term was up, has kept an uncharacteristically low profile since returning to Brazil in March to serve as honorary president of his Liberal Party (PL).
He faces a raft of other legal woes, from five Supreme Court investigations that could send him to jail — including over the January 8 attacks — to police probes into allegations of a faked Covid-19 vaccination certificate and diamond jewelry snuck into the country from Saudi Arabia.