Brazil could face attack like U.S. Capitol assault, top election official says

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Judge Edson Fachin looks on during a session of the Supreme Court to discuss a ruling restricting immunity that federal lawmakers and ministers have from prosecution in lower courts for crimes committed before their current mandates, in Brasilia, Brazil May 2, 2018. REUTERS/Adriano Machado/File Photo

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BRASILIA, May 17 (Reuters) - Brazil's elections chief on Tuesday warned that the South American country could face a similar assault as the 2021 U.S. Capitol riot amid growing attacks on its democratic institutions ahead of October's presidential election.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who is behind in the polls to his leftist rival Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, has repeatedly cast doubt on the country's electronic voting system, saying it is vulnerable to fraud, without providing evidence.

Critics fear that the far-right Bolsonaro, who idolizes former U.S. President Donald Trump, may refuse to accept the result if he loses, paving the way for a Jan. 6-style institutional breakdown in Latin America's biggest country.

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Supreme Court Justice Edson Fachin, who heads Brazil's Superior Electoral Court (TSE), said during a speech in Brasilia that the anti-democratic "regression" witnessed in other countries has already "infiltrated" Brazil.

Fachin, who did not mention Bolsonaro by name, said the attack on the U.S. Congress by Trump supporters "is a warning of the possibility of regression that we face that can infiltrate our national environment and which, strictly speaking, has unfortunately already occurred."

Fachin said Brazil had avoided conflicts over election results due to the country's electronic voting system. His comments represent his latest stark warning about the dangers Brazil may face in October.

In April, Fachin said: "Electoral justice is under attack. Democracy is threatened. Constitutional society is on alert," adding it was necessary, "to defend electoral justice, democracy, and the electoral process."

Fachin on Tuesday said the TSE expects to have over 100 election observers in October, including authorities from Europe. He made the comments during a talk on Latin American democracy given by election expert Daniel Zovatto of International IDEA, a Sweden-based organization that defends democratic processes.

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Reporting by Anthony Boadle Editing by Bill Berkrot

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