BRASILIA: Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro suffered a major defeat in Congress when lawmakers did not adopt his proposal to require printed receipts from some electronic ballot boxes.
Bolsonaro has insisted printed receipts are needed to avoid fraud, without providing any evidence that Brazil’s electronic voting system is prone to cheating.
His allies needed 308 votes to pass the proposed constitutional change, but got only 229 on Tuesday (Aug 10) night.
The opposition, however, also fell short of its goal of rebuffing the president with an overwhelming majority, but got only 218 votes.
Earlier in the day, dozens of military vehicles and hundreds of soldiers paraded past the presidential palace as Bolsonaro looked on, then continued past the congressional building and Defense Ministry. The military vehicles left the city at night.
The navy issued a statement saying the convoy had been planned long before the congressional vote. But it was announced only on Monday and critics said it looked like an attempt to intimidate opponents of a president who has often praised the country's past military dictatorship.
Military parades in the capital are usually limited to independence day events. Tuesday's procession was described as a ceremonial invitation for Bolsonaro to attend annual navy exercises that are held in a town outside the capital.
Critics contend Bolsonaro is trying to sow doubt among his passionate supporters about the 2022 election results, setting the stage for potential conflicts similar to those spawned by then US President Donald Trump's allegations of fraud in the United States.
Bolsonaro has repeatedly insulted Luis Roberto Barroso, a Supreme Court justice who is president of Brazil's electoral court, accusing him of working to benefit former leftist President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who has been leading in the polls for next year's election.
The measure voted on Tuesday was a watered-down version of an initial proposal to adopt printouts at all of the nation’s voting ballot boxes. That measure was rejected last week by a congressional committee.
Electoral authorities and even many of Bolsonaro’s political allies opposed the proposal, saying it would attack a nonexistent problem and could create opportunities for vote buying.
Cláudio Couto, a political scientist at the Getulio Vargas Foundation, said Tuesday's rejection marked the biggest legislative defeat for Bolsonaro.
“The administration is getting more frail in every aspect. It suffers in polls, it is investigated in the Senate inquiry on the COVID-19 pandemic, and the chances that Bolsonaro is not reelected are getting bigger,” Couto said.
“By insisting in today’s proposal to solve a problem that does not exist, Bolsonaro has made this defeat to be important.”
The call for a vote appeared to be a bid by lower house Speaker Arthur Lira, a Bolsonaro ally, to settle the dispute for good and ease tensions.
On Monday, Lira called the military exercise taking place the same day as the vote a “tragic coincidence".
“We hope that this subject is finally ended in the lower house,” Lira said after the vote.
Juan Gonzalez, the US National Security Council’s senior director for the Western Hemisphere, told reporters Monday that Biden administration officials were “very candid” speaking last week with Bolsonaro about elections, particularly in light of parallels with what has happened in the US.