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Leading Brazil candidate says he fears electoral fraud

September 17, 2018
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FILE - In this Sept. 5, 2018 file photo, Jair Bolsonaro, National Social Liberal Party presidential candidate, greets supporters during a campaign rally in Brasilia, Brazil. Now that former President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva has been bumped off the ballot for a corruption conviction, Bolsonaro is leading in the polls, apparently with the aid of evangelical backers. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres, File)

SAO PAULO (AP) — The man leading Brazil’s presidential election polls says he is worried that fraud could cost him victory in October, raising questions about whether he would accept defeat.

Far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro made a Facebook live posting Sunday saying he sees a risk that fraud might give the election to Fernando Haddad, who has replaced jailed former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on the left-leaning Workers Party ticket. Da Silva led in polls before being disqualified due to a corruption conviction.

“The great concern is not to lose the vote, it is to lose by fraud. That possibility of fraud in the runoff, maybe even in the first vote, is concrete,” Bolsonaro said in his first address to supporters from a hospital where he is recovering from a Sept. 6 stabbing attack.

“The Workers’ Party discovered the way to power, and that is the electronic voting,” he said.

Bolsonaro didn’t provide any evidence to support his claim, though over the years he has expressed distrust in Brazil’s electronic voting system. The congressman sponsored a bill for voters to get a receipt after casting their ballots, a move that was later blocked by Brazil’s top court on grounds it might lead to fraud.

Recent polls show Bolsonaro and Haddad are likely to lead the Oct. 7 first-round vote and then face an Oct. 28 runoff.

Bolsonaro has been hospitalized since the stabbing and while he left intensive care over the weekend, it’s unclear when he might be able to resume personal campaigning. The motive for the attack on him remains unclear.

On Monday Haddad accused the far-right candidate of “toying with democracy” with the fraud claim and said that Bolsonaro and his vice presidential running mate, retired Gen. Hamilton Mourao, are raising the risk of authoritarianism in Brazil, which emerged from two decades of dictatorship in 1985.

Last week Mourao suggested during a news conference that Brazil’s constitution could be reformed by a group of unelected “notables” and raised the idea of a “self-coup” in case of “anarchy,” though he didn’t say what those terms mean for him.

“We are in a tough moment,” Haddad said during an interview with several Brazilian media. “Either we defend our constitution to the end or we will see an authoritarian solution.”

Right-leaning candidate Geraldo Alckmin, who hopes to outrace Bolsonaro to the run-off by appealing to anti-Workers’ Party voters, suggested his adversary “is trying to justify his defeat beforehand.”

“I took part in 10 elections,” Alckmin told journalists in the capital, Brasilia. “I won and I lost, there was never fraud.”

Left-leaning Ciro Gomes, who is polling third, said Bolsonaro is following “the coup d’etat guidebook” by suggesting he might not accept defeat.

Brazil’s chief justice, Jose Dias Toffoli, reacted to Bolsonaro by saying the electronic voting system is “totally reliable.”

“The system is open to auditors of all political parties six months before the election. Many prosecutors and Brazil’s bar association have access too,” the chief justice said. “Some people just believe in myths.”

Bolsonaro also accused Haddad of plotting to free da Silva if he wins the presidency.

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