Brazilian business, labor, NGOs defend voting system amid Bolsonaro’s attacks

By Carlos Meneses

Sao Paulo, Aug 11 (EFE).- Employers associations, labor unions and social movements organized events across Brazil on Thursday to affirm democracy in the face of right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro’s attacks on the voting system less than two months before general elections.

The centerpiece of the mobilization was a gathering at the University of Sao Paulo (USP) law school where speakers read from manifestos denouncing “unfounded” claims that electronic voting is not trustworthy.

“We have a president who is very hostile to democracy,” jurist Oscar Vilhena, the man behind a manifesto that has garnered nearly a million signatures since July 26, told Efe.

Bolsonaro, a reserve army captain and outspoken admirer of Brazil’s 1964-1985 military regime, has long sought to cast doubt on the reliability of electronic voting, which has operated without incident since its introduction in 1996.

Indeed, Bolsonaro has won five terms in Congress and the presidency under that system, which has been praised by international observers.

His rhetoric has escalated as polls show his bid for a second term is likely to fall short.

Bolsonaro’s chief rival, former two-term President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, is well ahead of the incumbent in voter intentions ahead of the Oct. 2 balloting.

On July 18, Bolsonaro harangued more than three-dozen foreign ambassadors about the “suspicions” arising from electronic voting and his decision to make that argument to representatives of the international fueled fears he is planning to refuse to recognize the result if he loses.

The ensuing pro-democracy campaign took its inspiration from a similar petition drive in August 1977 to protest the abuses of the military junta.

“We want free and calm elections, a process without fake news or intimidation,” USP law school dean Carlos Gilberto Carlotti said at the start of Thursday’s assembly.

Arminio Fraga, a former head of Brazil’s central bank, urged efforts to safeguard democratic institutions that are the fruit of years of struggle.

Sitting in the front row of the auditorium was federal congresswoman Joice Hasselmann, a supporter-turned-opponent of Bolsonaro.

“Democracy is being threatened in our country. The president has given us repeated reasons to be concerned,” she told Efe, adding that Bolsonaro is “capable of attempting a coup” if he loses the election.

Also present for the event in Sao Paulo was Walter Casagrande, a sports commentator who in the 1980s was among several players with Corinthians, one of Brazil’s top soccer clubs, who advocated for a return to democracy.

“This letter,” he said, referring to a manifesto he signed, “demonstrated that people are ready to fight for democracy without violence, peacefully.”

“Our principal weapon is the ballot,” the former Brazil international told Efe. EFE


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