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Jair Bolsonaro and supporters

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro gestures to supporters during a rally ahead of the presidential election on September 28, 2022 in Santos, Brazil. (Photo: Alexandre Schneider/Getty Images)

Trailing Lula in Polls, Bolsonaro's Party Peddles 'Fabricated' Attack on Brazilian Voting System

"They're afraid they're going to lose," said one political scientist. "They're trying to create some kind of excuse for Bolsonaro supporters on why."

Julia Conley

With the most recent polls showing that progressive former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva could win the nation's October 2 election in the first round, right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro's political party appeared eager to give its supporters an "excuse" for his potential loss, said one expert after the party claimed Wednesday that government workers may change the election results.

Four days before Brazilians head to the polls, Bolsonaro's Liberal Party released a report on an audit of the election system it completed in July, baselessly claiming it had found evidence that federal employees have "absolute power to manipulate election results without leaving a trace."

"We're seeing lots of isolated cases that, when you add them up, form a mosaic of shocking violence. These attacks are provoked by people who question the legitimacy of the electronic voting system, who denounce electoral fraud, who say that we are evil incarnate."

The report represents only the latest attempt by Bolsonaro and his party to cast doubt on the validity of the election before it takes place. The president has also claimed that polls regarding the election are false. A survey released Wednesday by Genial/Quaest showed da Silva—commonly known as Lula—leading Bolsonaro by 13 percentage points.

Brazil's election authority quickly dismissed the Liberal Party's report, calling its claims "false and untrue, without any support in reality."

Independent experts on the country's electoral system also called some of the claims of flaws in the system's security "completely fabricated" and said others were complaints that have long existed, but not ones that point to Brazil's elections being at risk for hacking or security breaches.

"They released the report right now because they're afraid they're going to lose," Mauricio Santoro, a political scientist at the State University of Rio de Janeiro, told The New York Times. "They're trying to create some kind of excuse for Bolsonaro supporters on why."

Attempts by Bolsonaro and his party to sow doubt regarding the coming election results appear to be intensifying as political observers grow increasingly concerned about how the president and his supporters will react if he loses on Sunday.

Bolsonaro has warned that he will only leave office if he's "killed, jailed, or victorious" and has called on his base to "go to war" if the vote is "stolen."

As Carolina Ricardo of Brazil's Instituto Sou da Paz, an anti-violence group, wrote at Open Democracy on Thursday, the president has "ensured he has plenty of armed supporters" who may react to his potential loss with violence, as former U.S. President Donald Trump's base did in January 2021.

Along with overseeing the adoption of dozens of laws making it easier to acquire weapons, Ricardo wrote, Bolsonaro has "legitimized the political use of these weapons" by saying citizens should be able to "defend themselves" against laws they don't agree with.

"In my view, it is a political project of the Bolsonaro government to facilitate the arming of the population," said Ricardo.

Following consistent claims by Bolsonaro that the election system is untrustworthy, a poll taken in July found that three out of four of the president's supporters don't believe the country's voting machines will be accurate or that they trust the system only "a little."

As France24 reported Thursday, the doubt the president has sown has already fueled violence against a progressive city councilor in Rio de Janeiro.

"We're seeing lots of isolated cases that, when you add them up, form a mosaic of shocking violence," councilor Chico Alencar told the outlet. "These attacks are provoked by people who question the legitimacy of the electronic voting system, who denounce electoral fraud, who say that we are evil incarnate. There is unbelievable radicalization."

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