Bolsonaro denies elections in Brazil and calls for the votes to be annulled

BRASILIA, Brazil (AP) — More than three weeks after losing a re-election bid, President Jair Bolsonaro on Tuesday blamed a software glitch and urged the electoral authority to cancel votes cast on most of the Brazilian country’s electronic voting machines, despite independent experts saying that the error is the error does not affect the reliability of the results.

Such an action would leave Bolsonaro with 51% of the remaining valid votes – and a re-election victory, Marcelo de Bessa, the lawyer who drafted the 33-page motion on behalf of the president and his Liberal Party, told reporters.

Election officials have already declared victory for Bolsonaro’s nemesis, leftist former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, and even many of the president’s allies have accepted the result. Protesters in cities across the country have steadfastly refused to do the same, particularly as Bolsonaro refused to back down.

Liberal Party leader Valdemar Costa and one of the party’s chartered accountants told reporters in Brasilia that their analysis showed that all pre-2020 machines — nearly 280,000 of them, or about 59% of the total counting in the runoff used on October 30 – no individual identification had numbers in internal logs.

Neither explained how this might have affected the election results, but said they were asking the Electoral Authority to invalidate any votes cast on those machines.

The complaint described the error as an “irreparable non-compliance due to a malfunction,” calling into question the authenticity of the results.

Immediately thereafter, the head of the electoral commission issued an executive order implicitly raising the possibility that Bolsonaro’s own party could suffer from such a challenge.

Alexandre de Moraes said the court would not consider the complaint unless the party offered an amended report within 24 hours that would include the results of the Oct. 2 first-round election, which saw the Liberal Party in both houses of Congress won more seats than any other .

The bug wasn’t known before, but experts said it doesn’t affect the results either. According to Wilson Ruggiero, a professor of computer engineering and digital systems at the University of Sao Paulo Polytechnic School, each voting machine can still be easily identified through other means such as its city and constituency.

Diego Aranha, associate professor of systems security at Aarhus University in Denmark, who has participated in official security tests of Brazil’s electoral system, agreed.

“It in no way undermines reliability or credibility,” Ruggiero told The Associated Press over the phone. “The key point that guarantees correctness is the digital signature associated with each voting machine.”

While the machines don’t have individual identification numbers in their internal logs, those numbers appear on printed receipts that show the total of all votes cast for each candidate, Aranha said, adding that the error was only discovered due to the electoral college’s efforts, the authority for to provide more transparency.

Bolsonaro’s less than two-point loss to da Silva on October 30 was the narrowest margin since Brazil’s return to democracy in 1985. Although the President has not specifically shouted a foul, he has refused to concede defeat or congratulate his opponent – ​​leaving followers room to draw their own conclusions.

Many have protested relentlessly, alleging voter fraud and calling for the armed forces to intervene.

Dozens of Bolsonaro supporters gathered ahead of Tuesday’s press conference, dressed in the green and yellow of the Brazilian flag and singing patriotic songs. Some verbally attacked and shoved journalists trying to enter the venue.

Bolsonaro has spent more than a year claiming Brazil’s electronic voting system is vulnerable to fraud without ever providing evidence.

Brazil began using an electronic voting system in 1996, and poll security experts consider such systems less secure than handwritten paper ballots because they leave no verifiable paper trail. But Brazil’s system has come under scrutiny from national and international experts, who have never found evidence it is being used for fraud.

Senate President Rodrigo Pacheco said Tuesday afternoon that the election results were “indubitable.”

Bolsonaro has almost completely retired in official residence since his October 30 defeat, prompting widespread speculation as to whether he is dejected or planning to cling to power.

In an interview with O Globo newspaper, Vice President Hamilton Mourão attributed Bolsonaro’s absence to erysipelas, a skin infection on his legs that prevents him from wearing trousers.

But his son Eduardo Bolsonaro, a federal lawmaker, was more direct.

“We have always mistrusted these machines. … We want a massive test,” the younger Bolsonaro said at a conference in Mexico City last week. “There is very strong evidence to order an investigation into the Brazilian elections.”

For its audit, the Liberal Party hired the Legal Vote Institute, a group that has criticized the current system and said it violated the law by failing to provide a digital record of every single vote.

In a separate report presented earlier this monthBrazil’s military said there were flaws in the country’s electoral system and suggested improvements, but did not substantiate allegations of fraud by some Bolsonaro supporters.

Analysts have suggested that the armed forces, which have been a key component of Bolsonaro’s government, may have maintained a semblance of uncertainty about the matter so as not to displease the president. In a subsequent statement, the Department of Defense said that while it had found no evidence of vote counting fraud, it could not rule out the possibility.

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Biller reported from Rio de Janeiro. Associated Press writer Mark Stevenson in Mexico City contributed to this report.

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