Bolsonaro lashes out at new probe: 'Brazil is under attack'

Brasília (AFP) –


President Jair Bolsonaro lashed out Tuesday at electoral authorities for ordering an investigation of his campaign against Brazil's electronic voting system, saying he refused to be "intimidated" and that the country "is under attack."

The far-right president, who is up for re-election next year, has recently stepped up his long-time criticism of Brazil's voting system, claiming -- without evidence -- that it is riddled with fraud and insisting there will be no elections in 2022 if it is not overhauled.

Brazil's Superior Electoral Court said Monday it would investigate the president for abuse of office, improper use of official communication channels, corruption, fraud and other potential crimes in his attacks on electronic voting.

"I refuse to be intimidated," Bolsonaro fired back.

"I'm going to continue exercising my right to freedom of expression, to criticize, to listen to and above all answer to the will of the people," he told supporters outside the presidential palace.

"I swore to give my life for the nation in case of foreign or domestic attack. Brazil is under internal attack."

Bolsonaro has long criticized electronic voting, introduced in Brazil in 1996.

He has stepped up his attacks in the build-up to the October 2022 elections, insisting on "printable and auditable" paper ballots as a backstop to the electronic system.

He has called the Superior Electoral Court's president, Luis Roberto Barroso, an "imbecile" for suggesting introducing a paper ballot could open the process to manipulation.

On Sunday, thousands of Brazilians took to the streets in several cities to support Bolsonaro's campaign against electronic voting, though the president did not take part.

Opinion polls place the 66-year-old leader well behind leftist ex-president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in next year's presidential race.

Bolsonaro is under fire on various fronts, including a Senate investigation into his government's widely criticized handling of Covid-19.

There are fears he could try to use fraud claims to undermine the election if he loses, following in the footsteps of former US president Donald Trump, to whom he is often compared.