| 20 April 2024, Saturday |

Bolsonaro’s political hopes die as he is barred from office until 2030

Jair Bolsonaro, a former president of Brazil, had his political career come to an end on Friday after the country’s federal electoral court (TSE) suspended him from holding public office until 2030 due to his actions during last year’s contentious election.

Before the 2022 election, in July, 68-year-old Bolsonaro summoned diplomats to air untruths about Brazil’s electronic voting system. Five of the seven justices voted to punish him for abuse of power and media mismanagement.

Their decision marks a stunning reversal for Bolsonaro, a fiery former army captain who narrowly lost October’s election to leftist rival Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. Many in Brazil blame him for creating a nationwide movement to overturn the result, which culminated in the Jan. 8 invasion of government buildings in Brasilia by thousands of his supporters.

The impact from the electoral court’s ruling is likely to ripple through Brazilian politics, removing Lula’s main foe from contention in 2026 and opening up space among a competitive field on Brazil’s right.

Lula’s team celebrated the result.

“Some important messages come from the TSE trial: lying is not a legitimate tool for exercising a public function and politics is not governed by the law of the jungle,” Justice Minister Flavio Dino tweeted. “Democracy has overcome its toughest stress test in decades.”

This is not the end of Bolsonaro’s troubles; he still faces multiple criminal probes that could put him behind bars.

Bolsonaro has denied wrongdoing, and his lawyers have pledged to appeal to the Supreme Court. On Friday, he described the decision as a “stab in the back,” and pledged to keep working to advance right-wing politics in Brazil.

It remains to be seen what Bolsonaro, whose personal brand has become increasingly toxic in Brazil, does next.

His hopes of beating Lula in 2026 may be over, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be a Bolsonaro running in three years’ time. Bolsonaro has said he would support his wife, Michelle, as candidate. She is a political novice, but an avowed evangelical Christian who could garner support among a religious right that is wary of Lula.

Jair Bolsonaro, an admirer of former U.S. President Donald Trump, was criticized internationally for his lackluster stewardship of the Amazon rainforest, his laissez-faire approach to COVID-19 restrictions, and his evidence-free attacks on Brazil’s electoral system.

The TSE trial is part of a broader reckoning in Brazil with the fallout from the country’s most painful election in a generation. While the former president faced the electoral court scrutiny, many of his one-time allies are being questioned by lawmakers in a congressional probe into the Jan. 8 riots.

  • Reuters