Electoral court won’t punish Bolsonaro for 2018 campaign accusations

Bolsonaro 2018 campaign accusations
Justice Luís Felipe Salomão, the cases’ rapporteur: “Not enough evidence.” Photo: Abdias Pinheiro/Secom/TSE

Brazil’s Superior Electoral Court has decided against ousting President Jair Bolsonaro and Vice President Hamilton Mourão for allegedly benefiting from illegal campaign funding during the 2018 election. 

The court is analyzing two cases against the Bolsonaro-Mourão ticket: one relates to a mass-messaging scheme allegedly paid for by companies to target specific voter groups on WhatsApp — promoting Mr. Bolsonaro and smearing his adversaries — while the other concerns the use of social media bots to attack other candidates.

All seven judges voted against punishing the president, believing there is not enough evidence to prove collusion between the Bolsonaro campaign and the business leaders who paid for the schemes. 

As The Brazilian Report had explained last year, a conviction was unlikely from the start. One electoral law expert told us at the time that the plaintiff’s case was poorly constructed, making many inferences without pointing to hard evidence. 

Supreme Court Justice Alexandre de Moraes, one of the court members, issued a warning for next year’s election. “If what happened in 2018 is repeated in the future, campaigns will be excluded from the race and the people responsible for wrongdoing will be arrested.”