Judges get involved in the acrimonious election campaign in Brazil

Date:

Judges get involved in the acrimonious election campaign in Brazil

  • News by AUN News correspondent
  • Monday, October 24, 2022.
  • AUN News – ISSN: 2949-8090

Summary:

  • They threw a grenade at officers sent by the court to transport him to prison on Sunday, injuring two police officers in one of the most publicised encounters between a politician and the STF. Roberto Jefferson, who was jailed in connection with an inquiry into “antidemocratic digital militias” last year, was found to have violated the terms of his house detention by comparing a female STF judge to a prostitute on social media.

  • “The STF has a disproportionately large presence in Brazilian society, partly due to its design.

  • A series of contentious supreme court rulings had already inflamed the ire of the president’s followers.

  • Parallel to this, Bolsonaro’s unfounded claims that Brazil’s electronic voting machines are susceptible to fraud have been firmly refuted by the electoral court, also known as the TSE, which has three STF justices among its seven judges.

  • Opponents see the allegations as a ploy to deny a potential electoral defeat.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has once more targeted the referees in his battle to maintain power in a contest that has sunk into unethical tactics.

He implied last week that there may be prejudice in favour of his left-leaning competitor, former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, by saying that “on the part of parts of the judiciary, there is an interest in one candidate.”

The nation’s top judges have been thrust into the middle of a contentious election in the last stretch before a runoff vote between the two men on October 30.

The top electoral court in Brazil has tightened its control over false information, directing both campaigns and media outlets to stop airing claims ranging from Satanism to paedophilia.

The rising political influence of the nation’s highest courts has been highlighted by several supreme court rulings against Bolsonaro or his supporters since he took office in 2019.

There are cautions that the actions risk undermining the institutions’ legitimacy at a time of polarisation in Latin America’s largest democracy.

According to Filipe Campante, a professor at Johns Hopkins University, the legitimacy of the legal system has been weakened.

Bolsonaro has further enticed the top court into the political sphere. “And the Supreme Court has played right into his hands by behaving in dubious ways.”

The supreme court, known locally by its abbreviation STF, and the far-right populist have frequently sparred, with the former accusing the latter of impeding government policy.

One of its most divisive choices was the reversal of Lula’s corruption convictions from the previous year, which opened the door for his candidacy.

Parallel to this, Bolsonaro’s unfounded claims that Brazil’s electronic voting machines are susceptible to fraud have been firmly refuted by the electoral court, also known as the TSE, which has three STF justices among its seven judges. Opponents see the allegations as a ploy to deny a potential electoral defeat.

Supporters of the courts’ authoritarian attitudes claim that it is justified for them to restrain the president’s aggressive impulses and safeguard democracy from an onslaught of false information.

Eloisa Machado, a constitutional law professor at the Getlio Vargas Foundation, said, “We’ve been on a trajectory towards dictatorship, which did not materialise because there was pushback, partly from the judicial power.”

According to police, a former congressman and Bolsonaro friend opened fire. They threw a grenade at officers sent by the court to transport him to prison on Sunday, injuring two police officers in one of the most publicised encounters between a politician and the STF.

Roberto Jefferson, who was jailed in connection with an inquiry into “antidemocratic digital militias” last year, was found to have violated the terms of his house detention by comparing a female STF judge to a prostitute on social media. On Sunday, Bolsonaro referred to him as a “criminal.”

The STF has a disproportionately large presence in Brazilian society, partly due to its design. Its 11 justices are appointed by the president in office, subject to Senate confirmation, and serve until 75. They are typically but not always career judges or prosecutors.

Former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva speaking during a press conference
Former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva © Alexandre Schneider/Getty Images

It is a court of last resort that hears cases against politicians, including the president and members of Congress, and has jurisdiction over constitutionality issues. This broad scope translates to a heavy caseload that eclipses its US equivalents, with roughly 100,000 decisions made last year.

According to Campante, the Brazilian STF justices’ ideological preferences are less clear-cut than those of the American Supreme Court.

He continued, “It’s more like they act like other politicians, [with] choices frequently influenced by their political interests and the broader political context.

However, critics, particularly Bolsonaro supporters, charge the two courts with crossing lines and violating the right to free speech.

They highlight a recent TSE decision directing YouTube to stop “monetizing” four Bolsonaro-supporting channels for spreading untrue information on Lula.

The two candidates have also been required to run rebuttals from their rivals in TV advertisements. At the same time, Lula will receive more airtime in the campaign’s final week due to his more significant concessions.

Decisions by the electoral authority were made in response to a deluge of petitions from both sides that alleged collusion.

However, this week the court gave itself new authority to order social media sites to erase online content they have already determined to be false within two hours, which exacerbated concerns about its reach.

Supreme Court Justice Alexandre de Moraes, the chairman of the TSE, claimed that complaints concerning misinformation had increased 17-fold since the previous election.

The recent measures of the electoral board, according to Uziel Santana of an Evangelical lawyers’ association, “seriously undermine the democratic state of law” and may be storing up issues for the election.

He declared that “press freedom is being attacked.” “The TSE is unbalancing the political game, and any campaigns can subsequently use this to claim state interference outside the bounds of the constitution.”

Carlos Melo, a political scientist at Insper University in So Paulo, thinks that if Bolsonaro loses, he will attempt to claim that the outcome was the result of “manipulation of electoral justice.”

That is the narrative and the approach, he declared.

TSE opted not to comment.

A series of contentious supreme court rulings had already inflamed the ire of the president’s followers.

One case included a right-wing politician who posted threats online against STF justices, including Moraes, who has been under fire from Bolsonaro and was given a nine-year sentence in April. Later, the president pardoned him.

Following press allegations of a private WhatsApp group where one member reportedly said he would prefer a coup to a Lula triumph, a group of bolsonarista businesspeople had their residences searched. Their bank accounts were temporarily seized in August.

Moraes defended the directive at the time by arguing that there was a chance of funding “anti-democratic activity.” For this article, he declined to comment.

Justice Dias Toffoli of the Supreme Court justified the actions, calling them “unfortunate necessity,” but he dismissed claims that the STF engaged in judicial overreach.

He told the Financial Times, “You can never go too far to defend the constitution and democracy.” “The defence of the rule of law is the foundation of our job; checks and balances serve this purpose,”

He asserted that due to elected officials frequently going to the STF with conflicts, there was a “judicialization” of politics rather than a politicisation of the judiciary.

According to Filipe Campante, a professor at Johns Hopkins University, the legitimacy of the legal system has been weakened.

Bolsonaro has further enticed the top court into the political sphere. “And the Supreme Court has played right into his hands by behaving in dubious ways.”

The supreme court, known locally by its abbreviation STF, and the far-right populist have frequently sparred, with the former accusing the latter of impeding government policy.

One of its most divisive choices was the reversal of Lula’s corruption convictions from the previous year, which opened the door for his candidacy.

Parallel to this, Bolsonaro’s unfounded claims that Brazil’s electronic voting machines are susceptible to fraud have been firmly refuted by the electoral court, also known as the TSE, which has three STF justices among its seven judges. Opponents see the allegations as a ploy to deny a potential electoral defeat.

Supporters of the courts’ authoritarian attitudes claim that it is justified for them to restrain the president’s aggressive impulses and safeguard democracy from an onslaught of false information.

Elosa Machado, a constitutional law professor at the Getlio Vargas Foundation, said, “We’ve been on a trajectory towards dictatorship, which did not materialise because there was pushback, partly from the judicial power.”

According to police, a former congressman and Bolsonaro friend opened fire. They threw a grenade at officers sent by the court to transport him to prison on Sunday, injuring two police officers in one of the most publicised encounters between a politician and the STF.

Roberto Jefferson, who was jailed in connection with an inquiry into “antidemocratic digital militias” last year, was found to have violated the terms of his house detention by comparing a female STF judge to a prostitute on social media. On Sunday, Bolsonaro referred to him as a “criminal.”

The STF has a disproportionately large presence in Brazilian society, partly due to its design. Its 11 justices are appointed by the president in office, subject to Senate confirmation, and serve until 75. They are typically but not always career judges or prosecutors.

Analysis by: Advocacy Unified Network

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