Sending off from the political stage: Brazil's ex-president Jair Bolsonaro may no longer be elected to public office until 2030. The Supreme Electoral Court in the capital, Brasília, withdrew the right-wing ex-president (2019-2022) from standing for eight years on Friday. The period of the ban begins retrospectively from the presidential election in October 2022. If the verdict becomes final, Bolsonaro will also be excluded from the presidential election in 2026.
He was not yet politically settled, Bolsonaro said after the decision. He announced that he would appeal the verdict. "The process has no basis," said the ex-president on Friday at a press conference in Belo Horizonte.
Bolsonaro could appeal the decision directly to the Supreme Electoral Court for procedural reasons, or have the Supreme Court review the verdict for constitutionality. Both appeals must be made within three days.
The process was initiated by the left-wing Democratic Workers' Party (PDT). The former president abused his office, spread misinformation and made the Brazilian institutions despicable on the international stage, said party attorney Walber Agra.
The Attorney General responsible for electoral law accused Bolsonaro of casting doubt on the Brazilian electoral system during a televised meeting with foreign diplomats in July last year. Bolsonaro claimed this was not secure and could be tampered with. However, he did not provide any evidence to support his claims. "He turned the meeting into a campaign event. A speech of this nature does not fall within the realm of freedom of expression," said Deputy Attorney General Paulo Gonet.
Bolsonaro denied the allegations. "I didn't attack the electoral system, I pointed out possible problems," he said on Friday. His lawyer Tarcisio Vieira de Carvalho said the debate about the electoral system should not be a taboo subject in a democracy.
The electoral system in Brazil is completely electronic and passed a regular security test by the Supreme Electoral Court in May last year. However, Bolsonaro repeatedly cast doubt on the reliability of the system and never explicitly acknowledged his electoral defeat by Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva last October. Earlier this year, a few days after his successor took office, radical Bolsonaro supporters stormed Congress, the seat of government and the Supreme Court in Brasília, causing extensive damage. It took hours for the security forces to bring the situation back under control.
The leader of Bolsonaro's Liberal Party (PL) criticized the Supreme Electoral Court's decision. "It is unbelievable what is happening here: for the first time in human history, a former president is losing his political rights for speaking his mind," Valdemar Costa Neto wrote on Twitter. "Let's work twice as hard and show our loyalty to President Bolsonaro."
This article has been updated.