Police accused of suppressing pro-Bolsonaro voters in high-stakes presidential race


Topline

Reports of Brazilian police blocking key highways and stopping buses full of voters on their way to the polls on Sunday prompted allegations of voter suppression, amid a tense presidential runoff between Brazil’s president right-wing Jair Bolsanaro, nicknamed “Tropical Trump” – and left-leaning former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva who could steer the country in radically different directions.

Highlights

On Sunday, dozens of reports circulated online that Brazil’s federal highway police had set up illegal roadblocks to stop vehicles and question drivers in several Brazilian states, particularly in the northeast, which is considered a bastion of the left.

Brazilian Supreme Court Justice Alexandre de Moraes, the head of the country’s electoral agency, ordered the chief of the traffic police to prove that the agents were not breaking electoral rules to help Bolsonaro in the election, according to the New York Times (A day before, officials ordered police to suspend traffic checks that could prevent voters from getting to the polls).

Highways police had stopped more than 550 buses across Brazil as of Sunday afternoon, an unnamed federal highways agent told the Timeciting internal data (in the first round of voting earlier this month, the agency stopped nearly 300 buses, he said).

Moraes told a reporter on Sunday that despite police interruptions, election officials’ preliminary investigation found that all of the buses had reached the polling stations, saying they “had no voters who had not voted because of operations”.

Moraes also said Sunday afternoon that police had agreed to halt operations, according to the Washington Post.

Moraes opted not to extend voting hours at Brazilian polling stations, which closed at 5 p.m. local time, or 4 p.m. EST.

To monitor

Election results in Brazil. Because it is the only country in the world to have fully electronic elections, results will be released relatively quickly compared to other nations’ elections. The election is expected to be extremely close: As of 6:15 p.m. local time, Bolsonaro was leading Lula 50.7% to 49.3% with around 39% of the constituencies counted.

Key context

Tensions were high in Brazil on Sunday amid the second round of voting for Brazil’s next president. Right-wing Bolsonaro, a close ally of former US President Donald Trump, hinted he could not back down if he lost and launched unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud. He is being challenged for a second term by Lula, who was Brazil’s president from 2003 to 2010 and is running on a platform that includes raising taxes on Brazil’s wealthiest citizens as well as raising wages minimum and the strengthening of social programs. He also pledged to fight deforestation and end illegal mining in the Brazilian Amazon, while Bolsonaro advocated for even more mining, ranching and agriculture in this environmentally sensitive region. . Bolsonaro has campaigned for tax cuts, lowering Brazil’s crime rate and opposing abortion.

Tangent

Lula is in a position to run for president after his 2018 conviction for corruption and money laundering was overturned last year. Prosecutors say Lula took more than $1 million in bribes in exchange for contracts with government contractors, but his supporters say the wide-ranging investigation that swept up the former president was rigged.

Further reading

Brazil Elections: Trump-Backed Bolsonaro Takes On Leftist Former President Lula: Here’s What You Need To Know (Forbes)

Brazilian highway police block fears of voter repression (Reuters)

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