Last week, Brazil’s electoral court ruled that former President Jair Bolsonaro cannot run for public office for the next eight years. The lead justice in the case, Benedito Goncalves, pointed to comments Bolsonaro made as president to foreign ambassadors in which he appeared to discredit the legitimacy of Brazil’s electoral system.
Hanging over this case is the fact that Bolsonaro went beyond verbal abuses and engaged in organizing an insurrection after President Lula da Silva took office in January. Bolsonaro also faces a range of other civil and criminal charges for his actions as president, including corruption, promoting disinformation and crimes against public health for his negligence and mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic.
If Bolsonaro’s only crime was speaking poorly of Brazil’s electoral system, the judgment would likely be an overreach. But given the threat that Bolsonaro represents to Brazil’s democracy and the actions he took as president, there is a general feeling that banning him from being a candidate for a spell is a smart decision that can help protect the country against an authoritarian demagogue.