President Jair Bolsonaro is contesting his loss in the October election and has asked the electoral authority to invalidate votes cast on the majority of the nation's electronic voting machines, citing a software bug that did not affect the reliability of results, according to independent experts.
Marcelo de Bessa, the attorney who filed the 33-page petition on behalf of the president and his Liberal Party, told reporters on Tuesday that Bolsonaro would win reelection with 51 percent of the remaining valid votes.
The electoral authority has already declared leftist former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva the winner, and leading politicians, including many of Bolsonaro's allies, have accepted the results. Protesters in cities across the nation have steadfastly refused to do the same, especially in light of Bolsonaro's refusal to concede.
Party leader Valdemar Costa and an auditor hired by the party told reporters in Brasilia that their evaluation revealed that individual identification numbers were missing from the internal logs of nearly 280,000 machines, or approximately 59 percent of the total used in the runoff on October 30.
Neither candidate explained how this may have affected election results, but both requested that all votes cast on those machines be invalidated.
The complaint described the bug as "irreparable non-compliance due to malfunction," which cast doubt on the results' veracity.
Afterward, the head of the electoral authority, Alexandre de Moraes, stated that the court would not consider the complaint unless the party submitted a new report within 24 hours that included results from the first electoral round on October 2, in which the Liberal Party won the most seats in both congressional houses.
The bug was previously unknown, but experts say it does not affect the results. According to Wilson Ruggiero, a professor of computer engineering and digital systems at the Polytechnic School of the University of Sao Paulo, each voting machine can still be easily identified by other means, including its city and voting district.
Diego Aranha, an associate professor of systems security at Denmark's Aarhus University who has participated in official security tests of Brazil's electoral system, concurs.
Ruggiero told The Associated Press over the phone, "It in no way affects the reliability or credibility." "The digital signature associated with each voting machine is the key element that guarantees accuracy."
While the machines lack individual identification numbers in their internal logs, those numbers do appear on printed receipts that show the total number of votes cast for each candidate, according to Aranha, who added that the flaw was only discovered due to the electoral authority's efforts to increase transparency.
Bolsonaro's loss to da Silva by less than two points on October 30 was the closest margin since Brazil's return to democracy in 1985. Although the president has not explicitly cried foul, he has refused to concede defeat or congratulate his opponent, leaving supporters to draw their conclusions.
Many have been relentlessly protesting, alleging election fraud and demanding military intervention.
Dozens of Bolsonaro supporters gathered outside the news conference on Tuesday, wearing the green and yellow colors of the Brazilian flag and singing patriotic songs. Some verbally assaulted and physically assaulted journalists attempting to enter the venue.
Bolsonaro spent over a year claiming without evidence that Brazil's electronic voting system is susceptible to fraud.
Experts in election security consider electronic voting systems less secure than hand-marked paper ballots because they leave no auditable paper trail. In 1996, Brazil adopted an electronic voting system. However, domestic and international experts have thoroughly examined Brazil's plan and have never found evidence that it has been used to commit fraud.
Tuesday afternoon, Senate President Rodrigo Pacheco stated that the election results are "incontestable."
Since his defeat on October 30, Bolsonaro has been almost entirely sequestered in the official residence, provoking widespread speculation as to whether he is dejected or plotting to cling to power.
In an interview with O Globo, Vice President Hamilton Mouro attributed Bolsonaro's absence to erysipelas, a skin infection on the president's legs that prevents him from wearing pants.
But his son, federal lawmaker Eduardo Bolsonaro, has been more direct.
"We have always been wary of these machines.... We want a massive audit," Bolsonaro's son said at a conference in Mexico City last week. There are numerous compelling reasons to investigate Brazil's election.
The Liberal Party hired the Legal Vote Institute for its audit, a group that has criticized the current system, claiming it violates the law by failing to provide a digital record of each vote.
In a report presented earlier this month, the Brazilian military identified flaws in the country's electoral systems and suggested improvements, but did not substantiate claims of election fraud from some of Bolsonaro's supporters.
Analysts have hypothesized that the armed forces, a key component of Bolsonaro's administration, may have maintained a semblance of uncertainty regarding the issue to avoid upsetting the president. In a subsequent statement, the Defense Ministry emphasized that although it had not uncovered any evidence of vote-counting fraud, it could not rule out the possibility.