Former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has been banned from running again for office for seven years after judges ruled he abused his power and cast unfounded doubts on the country’s electronic voting system.
The decision forbids far-right Bolsonaro from running until 2030, upending the 68-year-old's political future and likely erasing any chance for him to regain power.
Five judges on the nation's highest electoral court agreed that Bolsonaro used government communication channels to promote his campaign and sowed distrust about the vote. Two judges voted against the move.
The case focused on a July 18, 2022, meeting where Bolsonaro used government staffers, the state television channel and the presidential palace in Brasilia to tell foreign ambassadors that the country’s electronic voting system was rigged.
In her decisive vote that formed a majority, Judge Carmen Lucia — who is also a Supreme Court justice — said: "The facts are incontrovertible.”
"The meeting did take place. It was convened by the then-president. Its content is available. It was examined by everyone, and there was never a denial that it did happen,” she said.
Speaking to reporters in Minas Gerais, Mr Bolsonaro lamented that the trial was unfair and politically motivated.
“We’re going to talk with the lawyers. Life goes on,” he said when asked what his next step would be. He called the ruling an attack on Brazilian democracy. “It’s a rather difficult moment.”
Former President Fernando Collor de Mello and current President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva were declared ineligible in the past, but Bolsonaro’s case marks the first time a president has been suspended for election violations rather than a criminal offence.
Brazilian law forbids candidates with criminal sentences from running for office.
Mr Lula’s eligibility was reinstated by Brazil’s top court following rulings that the judge was biased when he sentenced the leftist leader to almost 10 years in prison for corruption and money laundering.
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