Nov 14 (Reuters) – Brazil’s democracy prevailed under attacks by far-right social media militias that sought to discredit the voting system during elections in October, the head of the national electoral authority said on Monday.
Allegations that electronic voting machines were vulnerable to fraud were aimed at changing the political system, Supreme Court Justice Alexandre de Moraes said at a business conference on Brazil in New York.
Moraes, who has been a thorn in President Jair Bolsonaro’s side, opening investigations into him and his far-right allies, did not mention the president by name. Bolsonaro was the main source of the repeated, baseless accusations about the electronic voting system.
Bolsonaro narrowly lost an Oct. 30 runoff vote to leftist rival and former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
Although he did not concede, Bolsonaro did not block the handover of power. Some of his supporters, however, have refused to accept the result.
“Democracy in Brazil was attacked, but it survived. Democracy resisted because the country has strong institutions and an independent judiciary,” said Moraes, who sits on the Supreme Court and headed the Superior Electoral Tribunal (TSE).
“It wasn’t the electronic voting that they wanted to replace, but the political system based on free voting. The intention was to attack democracy itself,” Moraes said.
Outside the conference in Manhattan, dozens of rowdy Bolsonaro supporters heckled Moraes when he arrived with other Brazilian justices. The demonstrators shouted that the election had been “stolen” and called for a military coup.
On Friday, Brazil’s armed forces commanders said election disputes must be resolved by the rule of law.
Moraes said that during the election campaign “digital militias” had resorted to misinformation and aggressive hate messages that have been “corroding” democracy for some time.
“This began in the United States, with the far-right, and spread to Eastern Europe and then to Brazil,” he said.
Moraes said Brazil is the world’s fourth largest democracy, but the only one that can announce the winner of a presidential election in 2 hours and 38 minutes, thanks to its electronic voting system, as it did on Oct. 30.
Brazil’s Chief Justice Rosa Weber issued a statement condemning the heckling Moraes and other Supreme Court members faced in New York.
“Democracy, founded on the pluralism of ideas and opinions, to legitimize dissent, proves to be absolutely incompatible with acts of intolerance and violence against any citizen,” she said. (Reporting by Anthony Boadle in Brasilia; editing by Grant McCool and Bill Berkrot)