Bolsonaro intensifies use of the machine to try to win election; experts see violation

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Bolsonaro intensifies use of the machine to try to win election;  experts see violation

After ending the first round of the elections five points behind his main opponent at the polls, President Jair Bolsonaro (PL) intensified the use of the public machine in his favor in an attempt to turn the score around.

In recent days, the chief executive has used the premises of Palácio da Alvorada, the official residence of the presidents of the Republic, to announce support from allies on more than one occasion – in a clear violation of electoral legislation, according to experts consulted by the Sheet.

The government also launched a series of measures seeking positive effects on the campaign, such as anticipation of the payment of social benefits by Caixa, inclusion of new families in the Auxílio Brasil program, debt forgiveness of indebted families and appointment of PF (Federal Police) public servants and of the PRF (Federal Highway Police).

Some of these initiatives were publicly announced, in press conferences with the presence of government authorities, in the middle of the electoral closed season, when rules for public spending and institutional communication are more restricted.

The conduct can motivate representations before the TSE (Superior Electoral Court), on the initiative of political parties, coalitions, candidates or the Electoral Public Ministry, and result in sanctions ranging from a fine to the cancellation of the mandate – or ineligibility, if Bolsonaro is defeated in the elections. ballots.

Lawyer Tarcísio Vieira de Carvalho Neto, legal representative of the president’s campaign, was contacted, but did not respond until the conclusion of this report. Carvalho Neto was minister of the TSE between 2014 and 2021.

The court is already evaluating whether Bolsonaro committed an electoral crime due to the acts of September 7, in which he was accused by opponents of turning a public event on the Esplanada dos Ministérios into a rally. In the view of legal experts and members of the Electoral Justice, eventual decisions to make him ineligible, in this case, are unlikely.

Recent actions may raise new questions. Part of the government’s positive agenda before the second round is based on the dissemination of a series of benefits created or expanded in the middle of the election year, thanks to a PEC (proposed amendment to the Constitution) approved by Congress.

In July, parliamentarians authorized Bolsonaro to inject BRL 41.25 billion in social benefits, despite electoral legislation prohibiting this type of measure in the election year — precisely to avoid using the machine in favor of one of the candidates. A PEC has greater legal force than an ordinary law.

The strategy was to boost actions aimed at low-income groups, the public that gives more votes to its main opponent, former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (PT). Despite all efforts, the president ended the first round behind PT. Therefore, the government decided to intensify the dissemination of actions and launch new promises.

On Tuesday (4), the president of Caixa, Daniella Marques, and the Minister of Citizenship, Ronaldo Bento, summoned the press to announce the anticipation of payments of Auxílio Brasil. They also indicated the inclusion of 500,000 new families in the program and signaled that the payroll loan (contracting a credit upon authorization of discounting the installment directly from the benefit) should be unlocked later this month.

On Thursday (5), Marques reappeared publicly to announce a forgiveness of up to 90% in debts from the bank’s customers, rehashing an initiative that has been in existence since 2019.

Electoral lawyer Juliana Markendorf Noda, a member of Abradep (Brazilian Academy of Electoral and Political Law), says that the aid, although approved through a PEC, violates the principle of annuality provided for in the Constitution. “A law cannot change the electoral process that will be held in the same year,” she says.

For her, the change in the election is not only due to the voting rules, but also due to the political and economic context of the dispute. In this sense, she understands that the boosted aid substantially altered the political conditions of the election. This view is supported by former TSE ministers.

The analysis of the disclosure of measures by the authorities, in turn, is a gray area in the lawyer’s view. According to her, framing the fences requires proof of the electoral nature of the ad.

When contacted, Caixa said that “conducting interviews or reports related to marketing activities does not offend the electoral legislation”. According to the bank, internal booklets about the limits of public agents’ actions during electoral campaigns guide the conduct of directors.

Bolsonaro, in turn, made daily announcements at Palácio da Alvorada between Tuesday and Thursday, in which he received public endorsement from re-elected governors such as Romeu Zema (Novo), from Minas Gerais, Ibaneis Rocha (MDB), from the Federal District, and Ratinho. Jr. (PSD), from Paraná. In all, 11 governors have already declared their support for the Chief Executive.

A former minister of the TSE heard by the Sheet assesses that the announcements made at Palácio da Alvorada after the first round violate electoral legislation. He cites article 73 of Law No. 9,504, of 1997, according to which public agents are prohibited from “ceding or using, for the benefit of a candidate, political party or coalition, movable or immovable property belonging to the direct or indirect administration”.

The rule provides for an exception: holders of Executive positions at the federal, state or municipal levels, may use official residences for campaign meetings, provided that the meetings do not have the character of a public act.

For the former minister, however, from the moment Bolsonaro goes out into the gardens, still on the premises of the palace, and announces support in front of the cameras, and with wide exposure on social networks, the public character is configured.

Edited in the late 1990s, Law No. 9,504 updated procedures after the amendment to the Constitution that allowed reelection.

The norm authorized the use of official residences for practical, cost-effective reasons, by dispensing with a whole mobilization of security apparatus that would be required for the displacement of representatives to meetings in other places.

The TSE even confirmed the device in the 2014 presidential elections, when judging a representation of the PSDB, which accused then-President Dilma Rousseff (PT), a candidate for reelection, of having violated the rule after a photo of a meeting with leaders of the PT at Palácio da Alvorada have been shown on the Lula Institute website. The toucans claimed a veto on the PT’s use of the site for supposed electoral purposes.

“The act of publishing or illustrating a certain fact on a website, or in any other vehicle of communication and dissemination, does not, in itself, have the power to convert it into a public act, considered the intelligence of the norm for electoral purposes. “, says an excerpt from the vote of Minister Admar Gonzaga, rapporteur of the matter.

The jurisprudence of the electoral court, however, changes depending on the update in the media, the advancement of social networks, as a former Electoral Inspector General recalls.

A result of this, according to him, was the recent ban imposed on Bolsonaro by the TSE, which prohibited him from performing lives broadcast from Alvorada.

Lawyer Juliana Noda also understands that there was a violation. “The use of the space refers to what happened at the embassy in London [onde Bolsonaro discursou em ato considerado como eleitoral pelo TSE]. It is prohibited conduct and can characterize abuse of political and economic power,” she says.

Before the beginning of the electoral closure, on July 2, ministers of the economic area were instructed to avoid exalting government achievements that could appear to be electoral propaganda, as well as avoiding comparisons with past administrations. This has not always been followed.

The government has already used the state radio and TV structure to broadcast 24 minutes of an interview by Minister Paulo Guedes (Economy) extolling the performance of the economy in transmission throughout Brazil 17 days before the first round of elections. On Thursday (6), the channel aired a speech by ministers, including Guedes, in which he again highlighted aspects that he considers positive in the current administration.

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