The head of Brazil’s highest electoral authority has one recent challenge of the results of the country’s 2022 presidential race, denouncing the efforts of outgoing President Jair Bolsonaro’s allies as “total bad faith”.

Alexandre de Moraes, judge and president of Brazil’s Superior Electoral Tribunal (TSE), further imposed a fine of 22.9 million reais ($4.3 million) on the coalition that filed the complaint, citing a ” total absence of any evidence”.

The decision of Wednesday, November 23, stems from a case brought by the Brazilian Liberal Party (LP) a day earlier to challenge the results of the October 30 second round elections.

The complaint, filed on behalf of Bolsonaro, alleged that 280,000 electronic voting machines had “irreparable operational differences”.

The Liberal Party called for the votes counted by those machines to be thrown out. Marcelo Bessa, a lawyer representing the party, estimated that excluding those votes would invalidate the left-wing candidate’s victory Luiz Inácio Lula da Silvawho won by a narrow margin.

In his statement, Moraes denounced the Liberal Party’s complaint as “apparently offensive to the democratic rule of law”.

Moraes wrote that the allegations of election inaccuracy were made “with the aim of encouraging criminal and anti-democratic movements”, pointing to pro-Bolsonaro protests and blockades that have impeded traffic on hundreds of highways across the country.

Bolsonaro has yet to publicly admit the race. Private, he reportedly told members of Brazil’s Supreme Court: “It’s over.”

After his defeat on October 30, Bolsonaro held a silence for nearly two days before addressing the public a short two minute speech of the Presidential Palace in Brasilia.

In his press conference, Bolsonaro did not mention either Lula or the election results, but thanked his supporters and affirmed that he would “comply with” Brazil’s constitution.

“I have always been labeled anti-democratic and, unlike my accusers, I have always played within the four rules of the constitution,” he said.

Bolsonaro’s critics, however, pointed to his repeated attempts to question Brazil’s electoral process, even before the October elections, and concerns expressed he would use those claims to contest the defeat.

During his campaign, Bolsonaro, a former army captain, requested a military audit of the country’s voting machines, claiming without evidence that they were prone to fraud. “If electronic ballots are impregnable, why are they? [the electoral court] worried?” Bolsonaro asked in a live social media broadcast in May.

His opponent Lula, who served as Brazil’s president from 2003 to 2010, recently denounced Bolsonaro’s attempts to involve the military in election procedures.

“A president, who is the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, had no right to involve them in setting up a commission to investigate electronic voting machines,” Lula said in a speech to allied lawmakers on Nov. 10.

Lula won 50.9 percent of the vote to Bolsonaro’s 49.1 percent in the October runoff, the closest presidential race in Brazil since the country’s return to democracy in 1985 after 21 years of military rule.

Although Brazil’s electoral authority confirmed Lula’s victory, there were protests in the wake of Bolsonaro’s loss, as truck drivers and other Bolsonaro supporters called for military intervention.

“We are with you,” protesters chanted in support of Bolsonaro as they blocked the highway to Sao Paulo International Airport, canceling flights. “We don’t accept a thief as a leader.”

Tuesday’s 33-page complaint was the latest attempt to contest the election Bolsonaro’s first defeat in his 34-year political career. The complaint alleged that a software flaw in most of the Brazilian machines made the votes susceptible to fraud.

Brazil’s electoral authority gave Bolsonaro’s Liberal Party 24 hours to provide evidence that the vote count was incorrect. Nothing was provided, Moraes said in his statement. He called the complaint a “totally fraudulent account of the facts”.

Moraes further ordered that government funds for the Liberal Party coalition be suspended until the $4.3 million fine is paid.

“De Moraes’ message to the political establishment is: the game is over. Questioning the outcome of the election is not fair play, and people and institutions that do so will be severely punished,” Mauricio Santoro, a political science professor at Rio de Janeiro State University, told The Associated Press.



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