Bolsonaro back in electoral court as he stares into political abyss


RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) – Former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who is clinging to his political future after testing Brazil’s democracy to its limits in last year’s election, is back in electoral court for a second day of hearings on Tuesday.

If Bolsonaro is found guilty of abusing his power last year for spreading falsehoods to ambassadors about Brazil’s electronic voting system, he could be barred from political office until 2030. The federal electoral court (TSE) is unlikely to deliver its verdict on Tuesday, but Benedito Gonçalves, the lead justice on the case, may well cast his vote, setting the tone for the other judges.

The outlook appears bleak for Bolsonaro, a career politician who was until recently Brazil’s most powerful man. The far-right nationalist narrowly lost Brazil’s most fraught election in a generation to his leftist rival Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, and faces an institutional reckoning for having forged a nationwide election denial movement.

“Everyone seems to say that it’s likely I’m going to be barred from office,” Bolsonaro told the Folha de S. Paulo newspaper in an interview published this week. “I won’t despair. What can I do?”

Political ineligibility may not be the end of Bolsonaro’s problems. The 68-year-old also faces multiple criminal investigations that could still put him behind bars.

Many of his former allies have turned their backs on him, pinning their hopes on new right-wingers like Sao Paulo Governor Tarcisio Freitas and Minas Gerais Governor Romeu Zema.

Bolsonaro’s best hope at relevance may lie with his family, including his wife and lawmaker sons, who could also harbor their own presidential ambitions. He told the Folha de S. Paulo that his wife Michelle could well be a presidential candidate in 2026, but noted she lacked political experience.

(Reporting by Gabriel Stargardter; Editing by Richard Chang)

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