Supporters of Brazil’s embattled far-right President Jair Bolsonaro have rallied in Rio de Janeiro to show support for his call to change the country’s electronic voting system, which has been in use for more than 20 years.
Bolsonaro, who is under pressure amid corruption allegations and the country’s COVID-19 crisis ahead of presidential polls scheduled for next year, wants a receipt to be printed after each vote on the electronic ballot box to allow the votes to be recounted physically.
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Bolsonaro is expected to face a serious challenge from left-wing former President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva, whom recent polls show would defeat the far-right leader in the 2022 contest.
“What we want is for the votes to be recounted publicly, for more transparency because there have been suspicions of fraud,” 46-year-old Ronaldo Calvalcante told the AFP news agency from the rally in Rio, which drew about 3,000 people. Thousands also rallied in the capital, Brasilia.
The country’s electoral tribunal has said the current voting system is completely transparent and never showed widespread irregularities, but Bolsonaro has alleged without evidence that fraud marred the 2018 presidential election that he won.
Al Jazeera’s Monica Yanakiew, reporting from Rio on Sunday, said Bolsonaro has argued that fraud prevented him from winning in the first round. “But there is no proof of that,” Yanakiew said.
Experts have accused Bolsonaro of seeking to sow doubt ahead of next year’s election, much like former United States President Donald Trump, whom the Brazilian leader had emulated.
Trump falsely claimed for weeks that the November 2020 US presidential election that he lost to Joe Biden was marred by widespread fraud.
“Eleven political parties have asked for proof of fraud in the past. What they’re saying is that [Bolsonaro is] trying to establish a narrative much like Donald Trump did in the United States that there will be fraud in next year’s presidential election,” Yanakiew said.
“And in case he loses, then he’ll have a right to not accept the results.”
Bolsonaro did not directly take part in Sunday’s rallies, but he said via videoconference that he would not accept election results that are not “proper and democratic”. He added that he would do “everything necessary” to ensure that paper receipts are printed after each electronic vote.
The president is facing mounting political pressure to account for his handling of COVID-19, which has killed more than 556,300 people – the second-highest death toll in the world after the US – according to Johns Hopkins University data.
Questions have also surfaced about alleged irregularities in his government’s coronavirus vaccine procurement process, alongside accusations of past corruption. Bolsonaro has denied the allegations.