The Supreme Electoral Court (TSE) of Brazil decided on Monday to open an investigation into far-right President Jair Bolsonaro for his statements claiming election fraud in the coming year.
Bolsonaro, who is expected to run for re-election in 2022, has repeatedly stated that Brazil’s electronic voting system is susceptible to fraud.
Critics claim that Bolsonaro, like former US President Donald Trump, is sowing doubts with unfounded claims in order to avoid defeat in 2022.
The TSE also decided to request that the Supreme Court look into whether Bolsonaro committed a crime by attacking the electoral system on social media and endangering Brazil’s democracy.
The TSE voted to investigate Bolsonaro after he accused court members of complicity in preserving a voting system that would allow former leftist President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva to retake power.
Bolsonaro is advocating for the use of paper receipts that can be counted if an election result is challenged, a change from the current all-electronic voting system. Bolsonaro has stated that if the system is not changed, he may refuse to accept the outcome of next year’s presidential election.
Over the weekend, supporters of the president held rallies in several cities in support of his proposal.
Earlier on Monday, a group of 18 active and former Brazilian Supreme Court justices who also serve as TSE judges declared the election system to be free of fraud.
“Brazil has eliminated a history of election fraud,” the judges said in a statement, saying that since the electronic voting system was adopted in 1996, there has never been a documented fraud case in any election.
“The electronic voting system is subject to audits before, during and after the election,” they said. The judges said all the steps are monitored by political parties, prosecutors, federal police, universities and the Brazilian Bar Association.
The judges stated that printed ballots are less secure than electronic voting and that if Brazil returns to manual counting of 150 million printed ballots, the possibility of fraud would increase.
A congressional committee will vote Thursday on Bolsonaro’s proposal to introduce paper ballots.
A request for comment on the TSE decision was not immediately responded to by the government solicitor general’s office.