Brazil's top prosecutor plays down risk of contested election

FILE PHOTO: Brazil's Prosecutor-General Augusto Aras poses for picture during an interview with Reuters in Brasilia, Brazil May 20, 2022. Picture taken May 20, 2022. REUTERS/Adriano Machado/File Photo

BRASILIA (Reuters) - President Jair Bolsonaro is unlikely to contest the outcome of October's election, Brazil's top public prosecutor said on Tuesday, playing down fears of business leaders, diplomats and politicians about the president's anti-democratic rhetoric.

Prosecutor General Augusto Aras told journalists that a refusal to accept electoral defeat would be "an affront to democracy," but added: "I'm not worried about this happening. Brazilian institutions are committed to democracy."

The far-right president has repeatedly criticized Brazil's electronic voting machines as open to fraud, without evidence. His claims have raised fears that he is preparing the ground to refuse to concede if defeated in October by his leftist rival, former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who leads in opinion polls.

Aras said he is confident that, if Bolsonaro is defeated in the October vote, a new president will take office next year.

"I want to believe that come Jan. 1, the president will not try to stay in the presidential palace, because that would be an affront to democracy," Aras said.

Aras, who was appointed by Bolsonaro when he took office in 2019, said it was not the business of the judiciary to speculate, but to work with proof of illegalities.

Asked about the electronic urns Bolsonaro has questioned, Aras said they had put an end to electoral fraud in Brazil since they were adopted in 1997.

But he added that the system was open to improvement and changes could be introduced for the 2026 elections, including more participation by civil society and state institutions in monitoring the voting, as Bolsonaro has urged.

"We need to preserve the legitimacy of the electoral process," Aras said.

(Reporting by Anthony Boadle, Editing by Rosalba O'Brien)

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