Former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s political career was in tatters on Friday as Brazil’s federal electoral court (TSE) barred the far-right nationalist from public office until 2030 for his conduct during last year’s fraught election.
Five out of seven justices voted to convict the 68-year-old Bolsonaro for abuse of power and misuse of the media when, in July, before the 2022 election, he summoned ambassadors to vent unfounded claims about Brazil’s electronic voting system.
Their decision marks a stunning reversal for Mr 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.
Jair 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 Mr Bolsonaro, whose personal brand has become increasingly toxic in Brazil, does next.
His hopes of beating Lula in the 2026 presidential election may be over, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be a Bolsonaro running in three years’ time. Jair Bolsonaro has said he would support his wife, Michelle, as candidate.
An avowed admirer of former US President Donald Trump, Bolsonaro 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.
The TSE ruling is also not the end of Bolsonaro’s troubles. He separately faces multiple criminal investigations that could still put him behind bars.
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