Brasilia, Jun 30 (EFE).- Brazil’s TSE electoral court on Friday found former President Jair Bolsonaro guilty of “abuses of power” last year during his ultimately unsuccessful campaign for a second term and barred him from seeking or holding any public office for eight years.
The ban is retroactive from October 2022, when the leader of Brazil’s far right lost a runoff to former two-term President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
The 5-2 ruling means that the 68-year-old Bolsonaro, who had already announced his intention to run for president in 2026, will be excluded from electoral politics until October 2030.
Presiding judge Alexandre de Moraes said that the decision is a response to “degrading populism born from the hateful and antidemocratic discourses” advanced by Bolsonaro with the “sole objective” of deceiving voters.
Bolsonaro, who often praised Brazil’s 1964-1985 military regime, sought from almost the beginning of his presidential term to impugn the trustworthiness of an electronic voting system that the giant South American nation has used since 1996 without incident.
De Moraes, for years a target of verbal attacks from Bolsonaro and his supporters, said that the then-president lied “to subvert and pervert” the electoral process.
The focus of the accusation against Bolsonaro were statements he made to dozens of foreign diplomats who he summoned to the presidential palace on July 18, 2022, to hear him denounce the Brazilian electoral system and democracy itself.
That act, according to the TSE verdict, constituted an “abuse of political power” and as an “illicit use of public premises and communications media,” as Bolsonaro ordered state television to broadcast his meeting with the ambassadors.
Addressing the arguments of defense counsel that Bolsonaro was merely stating opinions, De Moraes said that “freedom of expression” is not “freedom of aggression” and does not include a right to engage in fraud and “disinformation.”
Some of the TSE judges said that Bolsonaro’s heated rhetoric may have contributed to the events of Jan. 8, when his partisans assaulted Congress, the Supreme Court, and the presidential palace in hopes of spurring a military coup against Lula.
Brazil’s Supreme Court is currently weighing whether Bolsonaro should face charges in connection with the attempted putsch and he remains under investigation for a number of his actions while president.
Bolsonaro has never acknowledged his defeat at the polls last October and left Brazil for the United States two days before Lula’s inauguration on New Year’s Day.
In his first public comment on the TSE verdict, Bolsonaro called it a “stab in the back” and said that he will ask his lawyers to look into the possibility of lodging an appeal.
Meanwhile, his allies in Congress are trying to pass a bill that would grant amnesty to all those convicted of electoral offenses in 2022.