Brazil: Moraes, Bolsonaro’s scarecrow at the head of electoral justice

Brazil: Moraes, Bolsonaro’s scarecrow at the head of electoral justice

Nicknamed “Robocop” when he was Minister of Justice, Alexandre de Moraes, who has become a herald of the fight against disinformation at the Supreme Court, will preside from Tuesday the Superior Electoral Court (TSE), to the chagrin of President Jair Bolsonaro of which he is one of the pet peeves.

This is a key position in view of the October presidential election: the TSE is responsible for organizing the ballot, but also for sanctioning candidates who commit irregularities.

The fight against disinformation is one of the priorities of this court, which already has the far-right president in the crosshairs because of his constant attacks – and without proof – against the electoral system.

On September 7, 2021, during the most fiery speech of his term, Jair Bolsonaro targeted Judge Moraes.

“I will no longer respect the slightest decision of Alexandre de Moraes. My patience has limits,” he chanted, haranguing thousands of demonstrators massed in Sao Paulo.

Among the “decisions” of the Supreme Court magistrate, the opening of an investigation against the head of state for disinformation and the arrest of Bolsonarist activists who openly threatened democratic institutions on social networks.

During this same speech, Jair Bolsonaro had declared that “only God” would make him leave power and that he did not intend to “participate in the farce promoted by the TSE”, namely the election with electronic ballot boxes, a system yet in force since 1996.

– Pragmatic “hard line” –

This shows the magnitude of the task that awaits Alexandre de Moraes, 53, taking the head of the electoral tribunal a month and a half before the ballot.

“He will have to lead the TSE with an iron fist to avoid a breakdown in our electoral system,” said André César, political analyst at the consultancy firm Hold.

Bald, with a stern look, Judge Moraes, former prosecutor and professor of law at the prestigious University of Sao Paulo (USP) was appointed to the Supreme Court in 2017 by former center-right president Michel Temer (2016- 2018), of which he was Minister of Justice.

Nicknamed Robocop by the other members of the government, he already had a reputation for being a follower of the “hard line” before arriving in Brasilia.

As Sao Paulo State Security Secretary, he was criticized by the left for harshly suppressing student protests.

At the Supreme Court, Alexandre de Moraes is in charge of a thorny file: a vast investigation into mass distribution networks of false information.

He is seen as an implacable judge, but who knows how to be pragmatic and open to dialogue with political figures of all persuasions and senior army officers.

In May, he even hugged President Bolsonaro during an official ceremony, an image that raised the possibility of a truce between the two sworn enemies.

– “Relentless persecution” –

A few weeks earlier, the tension was still at its peak between the magistrate and the head of state.

The latter had granted his presidential pardon to Daniel Silveira, a Bolsonarist deputy sentenced to prison for having declared in a video on social networks that the judges of the Supreme Court deserved to be “beaten in the street”.

It was Alexandre de Moraes who ordered his arrest in February 2021, because of this video full of insults and attacks on democratic institutions.

Another high point of this showdown: August 2021, when Judge Moraes opened an investigation against the Head of State for disseminating false information, after his attacks on electronic ballot boxes.

Two weeks ago, President Bolsonaro said he was the victim of “relentless persecution” by the magistrate, during an interview on local radio Guaiba.

Alexandre de Moraes, for his part, gave his strong support on Twitter to the demonstrations organized on Thursday in defense of democracy in the face of the bravado of the head of state.


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