SAO PAULO (AP) — Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro issued a pardon Thursday night for a recently convicted ally, setting off backlash from adversaries claiming the president is overstepping his constitutional bounds and once again undermining the Supreme Court.
Brazil’s Supreme Court on Wednesday convicted lawmaker Daniel Silveira by 10 votes to 1 for inciting physical attacks on the court’s justices as well as other authorities. He was also stripped of his seat in Congress and barred from running for any office in October’s elections.
Bolsonaro said during a live broadcast his decision “is necessary for the nation to walk on the paths determined by the constitution.” “Freedom of speech is an essential foundation of our society,” the Brazilian president said. Later, his decree insisted Silveira was convicted unduly.
Supporters of the president have repeatedly asked him to defend Silveira from what they see as political persecution.
The president has had a fractious relationship with the top court’s justices since he took office in January 2019. More recently, he has targeted those who also lead the country’s top electoral authority, claiming without any evidence that the Brazilian electronic voting system could be rigged.
Bolsonaro is trailing former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in early polls, and many politicians and analysts see his confrontations with the court and electoral authorities as indicative he may not concede the election if he loses.
“Bolsonaro has just transformed the institution of pardons into an institutional disgrace,” Ciro Gomes, who has polled third below 10%, said on Twitter. “He is trying to accelerate in his march toward a coup. But he will not be successful.”
Gomes and other politicians promised to take Bolsonaro’s decree to the Supreme Court, arguing the president cannot make such decision based on personal interests.