Brazil: As the election approaches, President Bolsonaro and the government must respect the independence of the judiciary

The ICJ called today on President Bolsonaro and other public officials to fully respect judicial independence and the independent electoral procedures during the period surrounding the 2 October Presidential elections.

Over the past several months, the President and his political allies have engaged in numerous attacks, threats and offenses against the Federal Supreme Court, the Superior Electoral Court and individual judges in connection with their role during the electoral process. For example, the President has repeatedly verbally attacked Supreme Court’s Judge Alexandre de Moraes, who is also now the head of the Superior Electoral Tribunal. President Bolsonaro also asserted that he would not carry out any decision held by the Judge. Just a few days ago he claimed Judge de Moraes wanted to “control” the country.

The President has also constantly challenged, without evidence, the security and reliability of electronic voting machines and has implied that he may not respect the results of the elections.

Judicial independence and the independence of the electoral process are effectively under siege in Brazil due to the President’s attacks. On 25 August, former UN High Commissioner Michele Bachelet, in one of her last statements before leaving office, said that “President Bolsonaro had intensified his attacks on the judiciary and electronic voting system.” She expressed concern that the President had “called on his supporters to protest against judicial institutions on 7 September, the day of the 200th anniversary of Brazil’s independence”.

On 7 September, during the official ceremonies, the President made a veiled attack on Brazilian Supreme Court and other institutions, by saying: “We will bring to the four lines those who dare to stay out of them”. This phrase referred to the “four lines” of the Constitution, which the President has tried to convince his followers believe are being exceeded by Supreme Court judges.


In the Brazilian system, all judges and electoral officials are linked to the ordinary judiciary and are especially dedicated to the procedures of the electoral justice during the electoral period. The Brazilian electoral justice has jurisdiction over the registration of candidates, electoral crimes, among other issues. Judge Alexandre de Moraes is both judge of The Supreme Court and President of the Superior Electoral Court.

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