Bolsonaro Ratchets Up Attacks on Brazil’s Electoral Court

Bolsonaro Ratchets Up Attacks on Brazil’s Electoral Court

Tensions between President Jair Bolsonaro and electoral authorities reached a new high overnight, casting a shadow over Brazilian markets.

The president launched fresh attacks against the country’s voting system, while the top court opened a new criminal probe into the far-right leader and arrested one of his most outspoken allies.

Speaking on his weekly social-media broadcast late on Thursday, Bolsonaro doubled-down on past claims that members of the Electoral Court erased data that suggested a hacking attack during the 2018 presidential vote.

“In other words, they deleted the potential evidence of a crime,” he said. “I don’t have proof, but this is the story that came to me.”

The Brazilian real weakened 0.4% to 5.2758 per dollar, the second-worst performer among 31 major currencies tracked by Bloomberg, while swap rates rose as much as 20 basis points in the long end of the curve.

As his popularity has crashed amid his government’s chaotic pandemic response, Bolsonaro has taken aim at Brazil’s electronic ballot system, saying a paper trail is needed to prevent fraud. Opponents fear the one-time army captain is taking a page from former President Donald Trump, trying to create the basis to contest next year’s result if he loses.

His remarks followed a decision by Supreme Court Justice Alexandre de Moraes to open another federal investigation to determine if the president committed a crime for releasing confidential information. The probe came at the request of the Electoral Court, which oversees elections, after the president published on social media details from a sealed 2018 police investigation into the voting system, claiming it was proof the system was vulnerable to cheating.

The Electoral Court denies the allegations. In a statement, it said the incident under investigation was made public at the time and “did not represent any risk to the integrity of the 2018 elections.”

Fake News Probe
Bolsonaro’s barrage of conspiracies against the Electoral Court had already prompted Moraes to include him in a wide-ranging investigation into the spread of fake news and misinformation on social media last week. The president says the probe is unconstitutional, but it has ensnared many of his closest allies for their alleged attacks on Brazilian institutions.

On Friday, federal police announced they had arrested former congressman Roberto Jefferson, head of the Brazilian Labor Party and an ally of the president, for alleged attacks against democracy. Jefferson’s press office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Earlier this week, Congress rejected a bill introduced by Bolsonaro’s allies in congress to overhaul Brazil’s voting system, adding paper receipts for each vote cast. But the president’s continued focus on the voting system has spooked investors, with Brazil’s real among the worst performing of major currency tracked by Bloomberg on Thursday.

“It seems Bolsonaro is really insisting on paper ballots, and that is weighing on the real,” said Brendan McKenna, a currency strategist at Wells Fargo in New York.

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