As lawmakers vote on paper ballots, Bolsonaro to hold military parade

operation formosa military
Operation Formosa is a week-long military session. Photo: Tn. Hyppólito/Navy

Following a request from President Jair Bolsonaro, Defense Minister Walter Braga Netto has ordered the Navy to prepare a parade of armored vehicles, tanks, and weaponry in front of the presidential palace tomorrow. 

The purpose of the parade is merely for the Navy to present Mr. Bolsonaro with an invitation to attend Operation Formosa, a week-long traditional military training session which will take place 60 kilometers from the capital Brasília and begin on August 16. It is customary for military commanders to hand the invitation in person — but not to be escorted by combat vehicles.

The display of strength comes on the same day as the lower house is scheduled to vote down a bill, sponsored by the president, to introduce paper ballots as a supplement to Brazil’s fully electronic voting system. 

The Congress building — as well as the Supreme Court — sits just across the street from the presidential palace, which led many to interpret this unconventional parade as an overt act of intimidation against the other branches of power. For weeks, the president has threatened not to allow elections to take place next year without “auditable ballots”, despite no credible fraud allegations having surfaced since Brazil adopted the electronic system, nearly 25 years ago.

Defense Minister Braga Netto — who called for the military parade — has indulged Mr. Bolsonaro’s push for paper ballots, reportedly going as far as threatening Congress with a military coup should lawmakers strike it down.

Besides the probable defeat of the paper ballot bill in the House, high courts have placed Mr. Bolsonaro under investigation for his remarks trying to discredit the electoral system. The probe could ultimately cost the president his eligibility in the 2022 election — and Mr. Bolsonaro seems willing to test how far the courts are willing to go in holding him to account.