EXCLUSIVE Brazil invites EU for the first time to observe its national election

Supporters of Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro take part in an event with members of the Liberal Party and supporters as Bolsonaro presents his candidacy for the next presidential election, in Brasilia, Brazil, March 27, 2022. REUTERS/Andressa Anholete

BRASILIA, April 11 (Reuters) - Brazil's top election authority, the Supreme Electoral Court (TSE), told Reuters on Monday it has invited the European Union for the first time to observe its general elections this year, when President Jair Bolsonaro will seek re-election.

Bolsonaro has questioned the validity of Brazil's electronic voting system and made baseless allegations of fraud in the 2018 race, stirring concerns that he may not accept the results of the October election.

Recent opinion surveys show the far-right president trailing well behind leftist former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

European Commission Vice-President Josep Borrell, who handles EU foreign policy, replied last month thanking the TSE for the invitation, saying he had to consult the bloc's 27 member states and the European Parliament, a person with knowledge of the matter told Reuters.

That source and another, who requested anonymity to discuss diplomatic deliberations, said the EU plans to send a mission to Brazil in May to assess the viability of being an official observer for the October general election.

The EU embassy in Brasilia declined to comment. Bolsonaro's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The TSE told Reuters it has invited other international groups and institutions to set up election observation missions, including the Organization of American States (OAS), the Carter Center, the parliament of South American trade bloc Mercosur and the Washington-based International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES). The electoral authority said the invitations were still being negotiated.

"The OAS has been invited before to observe the 2018 and 2020 elections. This year we are inviting other institutions," a TSE source said, requesting anonymity to speak freely.

Bolsonaro has recently renewed his attacks on the Brazilian voting system, saying it is open to tampering and demanding the adoption of paper ballots. He has questioned the independence of the TSE, whose top members are Supreme Court justices who have questioned his attacks on Brazil’s electronic voting system.

Last year, as supporters of former U.S. President Donald Trump stormed the Capitol seeking to overturn the election victory of current President Joe Biden, Trump admirer Bolsonaro said without providing evidence on social media that there were lots of reports of fraud in the U.S. vote.

His criticism of Brazil's election system and close ties to the armed forces have worried voters that he may copy Trump's refusal to accept defeat.

Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com
Reporting by Anthony Boadle and Ricardo Brito Editing by Brad Haynes and David Gregorio

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.