In Brazil, some judges have highly ambitious political goals and make decisions accordingly.
The current presiding justice at the nation’s Supreme Electoral Court is Alexandre de Moraes. He was elected as the presiding electoral officer in August, in a public ceremony with 2,000 guests at the court auditorium. He was a member of the Brazilian Social Democratic Party before being nominated justice of the nation’s Federal Supreme Court on Feb. 22, 2017.
Moraes, who is now the nation’s top electoral officer in Brazil and responsible for overseeing the presidential elections, has issued numerous “monocratic decisions” against “misinformation,” in addition to sending some of President Jair Bolsonaro’s friends and supporters to jail, confiscating their electronic devices, and freezing their bank accounts.
In his ruling suspending Telegram nationwide, Moraes mentions its failing to remove “misleading” content from Bolsonaro’s own Telegram page. As reported, not only did he order the shutdown of the message app nationwide but also ordered Apple and Google to introduce “technological obstacles” to block Telegram on their operating systems and withdraw it from their digital stores in Brazil.
Bolsonaro, who seeks reelection in October, relies on Telegram to reach his voter base. He has more than a million followers on the platform and this could prove crucial to his electoral campaign.
‘Authoritarian Decisions’On March 19, during the popular television program “Os Pingos nos Is” from Jovem Pam, journalist Augusto Nunes accused Moraes of committing several illegalities, including the abuse of authority and the violation of a cláusula pétrea (“stone clause”) in the Brazilian Constitution that makes freedom of expression an inalienable right of the citizen.
Nunes also criticized the silence of politicians about Moraes’s “decisions,” including the banning of Telegram nationwide.
“It’s time to demand senators and judges handcuffed for their cowardice. And those appointed by President Jair Bolsonaro have to explain how long this cowardly silence they have maintained in the face of arrogance will last,” he said.
The investigation on “misinformation” conducted by Moraes concerns more generally the dissemination of information regarding the transparency of electronic voting machines and the credibility of the Brazilian electoral commission, which is actually headed by Moraes himself.
Bolsonaro Not the Only TargetAmong the targets of police actions ordered by Moraes are the national president of the Brazilian Workers’ Party Roberto Jefferson, businessman Luciano Hang, and congresspersons Douglas Garcia, Gil Diniz, Carla Zambelli, Bia Kicis, Junio Amaral, Filipe Barros, Luiz Phillipe Orleans e Bragança, and Daniel Silveira.
One of these parliamentarians, Zambelli, said that “every person who respects the law has the obligation to repudiate these searches within the scope of an illegal and unconstitutional investigation.”
By the same token, another congresswoman, Kicis, stated: “We are living in dark times of brazen attack on democracy. Don’t forget the people who are celebrating the abuses of authority and undemocratic acts by Justice Alexandre de Moraes against journalists, comedians, businessmen and any other common people. They are accomplices of the dictatorship. I have never been silent against tyranny or opponents.”
“They can take away my social networks, but they’ll never shut me up!” said Hang, who built a department store chain known for displaying replicas of the Statute of Liberty out front. “Say no to censorship! You could be next,” he posted on his Twitter account before it was closed by the court order issued by Moraes.
Brazil’s Democracy Under ThreatBolsonaro says democracy is now under serious attack in the country. He has accused these unelected judges of practising political interference and trying to deploy a judicial dictatorship.
After knowing all these extraordinary things, who would disagree? The democratic system is clearly being undermined by the replacement of the rule of law with the rule of judges. In fact, the premise that unelected judges know better what is best for the nation is elitist and utterly undemocratic.
It is ironic to see that now the major threat to democracy in Brazil now comes not from elected politicians but from a highly anachronistic judicial oligarchy.