Brasília (dpa) – Just hours after the failure of his planned electoral reform, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro once again sowed doubts about the voting system and criticized the country’s Supreme Court.

Of the 450 MPs, 229 voted in favor of the reform and only 218 against, Bolsonaro told supporters, as the “Folha de S. Paulo” newspaper reported on Wednesday. “It is a sign that half do not believe 100 percent in the smooth work of the (Electoral Court) TSE.” The right-wing head of state believes he knows the reasons for this: “They do not believe that the end result (the election) can be trusted.”

In the Brazilian Chamber of Deputies Tuesday evening, the electoral reform advocated by Bolsonaro failed, the at least 308 necessary yes votes were not obtained. Prominent members of the «Centrão» – a collection of small and very small parties, which often acquire offices and posts in exchange for political support – were also decisive. Last week, Bolsonaro appointed a politician from the “Centrão” as chief of staff.

Previous attempted intimidation?

Hours before Wednesday’s vote, a military convoy carrying dozens of vehicles drove past the presidential palace and Congress, among others – what observers interpreted as an attempt to intimidate the government in view of the impending defeat of the vote.

At the heart of the failed reform was a constitutional amendment that ensured that electronic voting machines were supplemented with printed ballots. The electoral system in Brazil – the most populous country in Latin America with 210 million inhabitants – is fully electronic.

Since the 2018 presidential election, Bolsonaro has repeatedly cast doubt on the reliability of the electoral system. Like former US President Donald Trump, he warns against possible manipulation without any evidence. Bolsonaro demands that the vote be recorded on a printout as well, otherwise he may not recognize the results of the 2022 presidential election. Only Monday, after a visit to Brasília, did a senior US administration official emphasize the importance of not undermining confidence in the electoral process, “particularly because there were no signs of fraud in previous elections”.

Experts had already expected that despite the TSE’s decision, Bolsonaro would continue to push the issue and potentially make it one of his election campaign topics – also because it recently used it to distract from other topics, such as a parliamentary inquiry into failures in the corona pandemic.

Bolsonaro targeted by the Supreme Court

Following the repeated attacks, Brazil’s Supreme Court recently targeted Bolsonaro and included it in the ongoing investigation into the spread of fake news. Political analysts say the president’s move has led to the mobilization of his supporters in the face of poor polls.

According to the Navy, the unusual military convoy had been planned for a long time. According to media reports, Bolsonaro, himself captain of the reserve, had been invited to a military exercise.

German political scientist and military expert Kai Michael Kenkel of the Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro (PUC) told the German news agency that from his point of view it was an attempt to demonstrate power. “The only question is: did Bolsonaro’s order come or not?” There have been no such convoys in previous years. “And all these vehicles had already arrived at the training site – and were driving back to Brasília”. Brasília is the capital of the country, where the seat of the parliament and the presidential palace are located.

Bolsonaro’s government approval has declined further over the course of the coronavirus pandemic. In early July, 51 percent of those polled rejected the president’s policies in a poll by polling station datafolha. That was the worst result since Bolsonaro took office in 2019.