Bolsonaro contests Brazil election loss, wants votes voided

Bolsonaro contests Brazil election loss, wants votes voided

November 23, 2022

Brazil’s Bolsonaro blames election loss to Lula on software bug and calls for cancellation of ballots from electronic voting machines with alleged malfunctions – experts say glitch doesn’t affect reliability of results

  • Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro appealed the results of the presidential election runoff vote Tuesday
  • Bolsonaro lost his bid for reelection to President-elect Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in a second-round vote on October 30
  • The far-right leader is asking the Superior Electoral Court to toss out votes that were entered on about 280,000 electronic voting machines
  • Bolsonaro argues that the voting machines were impacted by a software bug
  • Lula da Silva came out victorious, gaining 50.9 percent of the vote. Bolsonaro received 49.1 percent

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Tuesday contested the results of his failed reelection bid, blaming a software glitch and demanding the electoral authority annul votes that were placed on most of the electronic voting machines.

Bolsonaro’s lawyer, Marcelo de Bessa, filed the 33-page request on behalf of the president and his Liberal Party.

A reversal of the October 30 runoff results would leave the far-right leader with 51 percent of the remaining valid votes – and a reelection victory.

However, independent experts have said that claims of any bug presence wouldn’t affect the reliability of the second-round election.

The Superior Electoral Court has already declared victory for Bolsonaro’s nemesis, leftist former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, and even many of the president’s allies have accepted the results. Protesters in cities across the country have steadfastly refused to do the same, particularly with Bolsonaro declining to concede.

Lula da Silva gained 50.9 percent of the vote. Bolsonaro received 49.1 percent.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro (pictured) on Tuesday filed a protest before the Superior Electoral Court and appealed the results of the October 30 runoff, which he lost to former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva

Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva will be president of Brazil for a second time, after defeating President Jair Bolsonaro in an October 30 runoff. He was also president from 2003 to 2011

Electoral Court employees work on the final stage of sealing electronic voting machines in preparation for the general election runoff in Brasilia, Brazil, on October 19 ahead of the October 30 second round vote

Liberal Party leader Valdemar Costa and an auditor hired by the party told reporters in Brasilia that their evaluation found all machines dating from before 2020 – nearly 280,000 of them, or about 59 percent of the total used in the runoff – lacked individual identification numbers in internal logs.

Neither explained how that might have affected election results, but said they were asking the electoral authority to invalidate all votes cast on those machines.

The complaint characterized the bug as ‘irreparable non-compliance due to malfunction’ that called into question the authenticity of the results.

Immediately afterward, the head of the electoral authority issued a ruling that implicitly raised the possibility that Bolsonaro’s own party could suffer from such a challenge.

Alexandre de Moraes said the court would not consider the complaint unless the party offers an amended report within 24 hours that would include results from the first electoral round on October 2, in which the Liberal Party won more seats in both congressional houses than any other.

Creomar de Souza, political analyst of Dharma Political Risk and Strategy, said the wording of de Moraes’ ruling indicates the electoral court is likely to reject the appeal.

The bug hadn’t been known previously, yet experts said it also doesn’t affect results. Each voting machine can still be easily identified through other means, like its city and voting district, according to Wilson Ruggiero, a professor of computer engineering and digital systems at the Polytechnic School of the University of Sao Paulo.

Diego Aranha, an associate professor of systems security at Aarhus University in Denmark, who has participated in official security tests of Brazil’s electoral system, agreed.

‘It does not undermine the reliability or credibility in any way,’ Ruggiero told The Associated Press by phone. ‘The key point that guarantees correctness is the digital signature associated with each voting machine.’

Valdemar Costa Neto (center), the leader of President Jair Bolsonaro’s Liberal Party, speaks during a press conference regarding an investigation carried out by the party pointing out inconsistencies in voting machines used in the general elections, in Brasilia, Brazil, on Tuesday

Eduardo Bolsonaro, a Brazilian lawmaker and son of President Jair Bolsonaro, speaks at a gathering of conservatives, in Mexico City on November 18 and questioned the validity of the October 30 runoff 

While the machines don’t have individual identification numbers in their internal logs, those numbers do appear on printed receipts that show the sum of all votes cast for each candidate, said Aranha, adding the bug was only detected due to the efforts by the electoral authority to provide greater transparency.

Bolsonaro’s less than two-point loss to da Silva on October 30 was the narrowest margin since Brazil’s 1985 return to democracy. While the president hasn’t explicitly cried foul, he has refused to concede defeat or congratulate his opponent – leaving room for supporters to draw their own conclusions.

Many have been protesting relentlessly, making claims of election fraud and demanding that the armed forces intervene.

Dozens of Bolsonaro supporters gathered outside the news conference on Tuesday, decked out in the green and yellow of Brazil’s flag and chanting patriotic songs. Some verbally attacked and pushed journalists trying to enter the venue.

Bolsonaro spent more than a year claiming Brazil´s electronic voting system is prone to fraud, without ever presenting evidence.

The president’s appeal came a week after his son, federal lawmaker Eduardo Bolsonaro, repeated that concern at a conference in Mexico.

‘We always distrusted these machines. … We want a massive audit,’ Eduardo Bolsonaro said. ‘There is very strong evidence to order an investigation of Brazil’s election.’

Brazil began using an electronic voting system in 1996 and election security experts consider such systems less secure than hand-marked paper ballots because they leave no auditable paper trail. 

But the South American nation’s system has been closely scrutinized by domestic and international experts who have never found evidence of it being exploited to commit fraud.

The Senate’s president, Rodrigo Pacheco, said Tuesday afternoon that the election results are ‘unquestionable.’

Bolsonaro has been almost completely secluded in the official residence since his October 30 defeat, inviting widespread speculation as to whether he is dejected or plotting to cling to power.

On Wednesday morning, Bolsonaro returned to the Planalto Palace – the president’s official workplace. He had not been there since November 3 when he met with Vice President-elect Geraldo Alckmin. 

In an interview with the newspaper O Globo, Vice President Hamilton Mourão chalked up Bolsonaro’s absence to erysipelas, a skin infection on his legs that he said prevents the president from wearing pants.

For its audit, the Liberal Party hired the Legal Vote Institute, a group that has been critical of the current system, saying it defies the law by failing to provide a digital record of every individual vote.

In a separate report presented earlier this month, the Brazilian military said there were flaws in the country’s electoral systems and proposed improvements, but didn’t substantiate claims of fraud from some of Bolsonaro’s supporters.

Analysts have suggested that the armed forces, which have been a key component of Bolsonaro’s administration, may have maintained a semblance of uncertainty over the issue to avoid displeasing the president. In a subsequent statement, the Defense Ministry stressed that while it had not found any evidence of fraud in the vote counting, it could not exclude that possibility.

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