Bolsonaro contests Brazil election loss, wants votes voided

BRASILIA, Brazil (AP) – More than three weeks after losing a re-election bid, President Jair Bolsonaro on Tuesday blamed a software glitch and demanded that the electoral authority void votes cast on most of the Brazilian nation’s electronic voting machines, although independent experts say that the defect does not affect the reliability of results.

Such an action would leave Bolsonaro with 51% of the remaining valid votes – and a re-election victory, Marcelo de Bessa, the lawyer who filed the 33-page application on behalf of the president and his Liberal Party, told reporters.

The electoral authority has already declared victory for Bolsonaro’s nemesis, the leftist former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, and even a number of the president’s allies have accepted the results. Protesters in cities across the country have steadfastly refused to do the same, especially with Bolsonaro refusing to budge.

Liberal Party leader Valdemar Costa and an auditor hired by the party told reporters in Brasilia that their evaluation found that all machines date from before 2020 – nearly 280,000 of them, or about 59% of the total used in the runoff on 30 October – lacking individual identification of numbers in internal logs.

He also did not explain how that could have affected the results of an election, but they said they were asking the electoral authority to invalidate all votes cast on those machines.

The complaint characterized the defect as an “irreparable non-compliance due to malfunction” which called into question the validity of the results.

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Immediately afterwards, 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 offered an amended report within 24 hours which would include the results of the first electoral round on October 2, when the Liberal Party won more seats in both houses of congress than any other. .

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

The bug was previously unknown, but experts said it also does not affect results. It is still easy to identify each voting machine by other means, such as its city and voting district, according to Wilson Ruggiero, professor of computer engineering and digital systems at the Polytechnic School of the University of Sao Paulo.

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

“It doesn’t undermine trustworthiness or credibility in any way,” Ruggiero told The Associated Press by phone. “The key point that guarantees accuracy is the digital signature associated with each voting machine.”

Although the machines do not have individual identification numbers in their internal logs, those numbers appear on printed receipts showing the total number of votes cast for each candidate, Aranha said, adding that only because of efforts the electors who found the fault. authority to provide greater transparency.

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Bolsonaro’s loss of less than two points to da Silva on October 30 was the narrowest margin since Brazil’s return to democracy in 1985. Although the president has not specifically cried foul, he has refused to concede defeat or congratulate his opponent — leaving room for fans to draw their own conclusions.

Many have been protesting incessantly, making allegations of electoral 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 the Brazilian flag and chanting patriotic songs. Some verbally attacked and pushed journalists who were trying to enter the venue.

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

The president’s son, federal lawmaker Eduardo Bolsonaro, reiterated that concern at a conference in Mexico last week.

“We were always suspicious of these machines. … We want a massive audit,” said the younger Bolsonaro. “There is very strong evidence to order an investigation into the Brazilian 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 Brazil’s system has been closely scrutinized by domestic and international experts who have never found evidence that it is being exploited to commit fraud.

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The president of the Senate, Rodrigo Pacheco, said on Tuesday afternoon that the results of the election were “indisputable.”

Bolsonaro has been almost entirely reclusive in the official residence since his defeat on October 30, inviting widespread speculation as to whether he is depressed or plotting to cling to power.

In an interview with O Globo newspaper, Vice President Hamilton Mourão challenged 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 single vote.

In a separate report submitted earlier this monthBrazil’s military said there were flaws in the country’s electoral systems and proposed reforms, but did not confirm allegations of fraud by some Bolsonaro supporters.

Analysts have suggested that the armed forces, which have been a key part of Bolsonaro’s administration, could have maintained uncertainty about the issue in order to avoid displeasing the president. In a subsequent statement, the Ministry of Defense emphasized that although it had not found any evidence of fraud in the vote count, it could not exclude that possibility.

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Biller reported from Rio de Janeiro. Associated Press writer Mark Stevenson in Mexico City contributed to this report.

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