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Brazil election court throws out Bolsonaro challenge, fines party

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Brazil’s top electoral authority on Wednesday threw out a challenge by President Jair Bolsonaro’s party against his election defeat and fined it more than $4 million for bringing the case “in bad faith.”

The head of the Superior Electoral Tribunal (TSE), judge Alexandre de Moraes, ruled the far-right president’s Liberal Party had presented “absolutely false” arguments in its case, which he said was aimed at “encouraging criminal and anti-democratic movements” by Bolsonaro supporters seeking to fight the election result.

The Liberal Party (PL) brought the case Tuesday, saying an auditing firm it hired had found “irreparable operating discrepancies” in around 280,000 electronic voting machines used in the October 30 runoff election, which Bolsonaro lost to veteran leftist Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

The PL called for electoral authorities to exclude all votes cast on five models of voting machine manufactured before 2020, alleging they gave a suspiciously large advantage of nearly five percentage points to Lula.

Party lawyer Marcelo Bessa said excluding those votes would change the election result, from a 1.8-percentage-point win for Lula to a 2.1-percentage-point win for Bolsonaro.

Moraes responded with a withering rejection, accusing the PL of seeking to fuel ongoing protests by Bolsonaro supporters who have blocked highways and rallied outside army barracks calling for a military intervention to keep the incumbent in power.

“There is a total lack of supporting evidence” in the PL’s claim, Moraes said in a statement.

The case “is blatantly offensive to the democratic rule of law, and was brought recklessly, for the purpose of encouraging criminal and anti-democratic movements… responsible for grave threats and violence,” he added.

He fined the PL’s coalition 22.9 million reais ($4.2 million), and ordered an investigation of party leader Valdemar da Costa Neto and the head of the firm behind the audit, the Legal Vote Institute.

Bolsonaro, who has regularly alleged Brazil’s voting system is plagued by fraud — without providing evidence — was initially silent for nearly 48 hours after his defeat.

He then made a terse statement saying he would respect the constitution, but has not explicitly conceded defeat or congratulated Lula, who is due to be sworn in on January 1.

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Agence France-Presse (AFP) is a French international news agency headquartered in Paris, France. Founded in 1835 as Havas, it is the world's oldest news agency.

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