World Politics

The Donald Trump case and the impact of the judiciary on elections in democratic countries

The Donald Trump case and the impact of the judiciary on elections in democratic countries

Last Thursday, May 30, 2024, the United States witnessed an unprecedented event in its political history. Former President Donald Trump was convicted by a New York jury on all 34 counts of accounting fraud, related to the payment of $130,000 to porn actress Stormy Daniels in order to hush up an affair during the 2016 election. Although Trump could face up to four years in prison, he is unlikely to go to jail and could face more lenient sentences. However, given the legal and electoral nature of the United States, which does not prevent people who have been investigated or convicted at any level from running for office, Trump can and should still run for president again. Not only that, but he has already received support from important members of the market and investors to continue running for the White House. 

This article, however, is not going to analyze the guilt or innocence of the former Republican president. The fact that this happened, together with other important events in our own country, led me to reflect on the decisive role of the judiciary in electoral processes across the planet. This is illustrated by the extent to which a conviction can have a significant impact on voters' perceptions and a nation's political landscape. Even in the US, where there is no specific electoral court and everything is decided by the ordinary courts, the judiciary is a powerful force on the electoral scene.

In the United States, the impact of the judiciary on elections has been growing. Trump's conviction does not legally prevent him from running, but the effect of this decision on voters and his campaign could be profound. Public confidence in the electoral system and the integrity of candidates is directly influenced by such court cases. This case highlights the growing intersection between justice and politics, where judicial decisions can shape the political future of a nation.

In Brazil, by comparison, the role of the judiciary in elections is even more structured. The Superior Electoral Court (TSE) and the Ficha Limpa Law are specific mechanisms that regulate the eligibility of candidates. The Ficha Limpa Law, for example, prevents politicians who have been convicted in the second instance for crimes such as corruption from running for public office. This instrument has been a pillar in the attempt to maintain the integrity of the Brazilian electoral process.

Historically, the Brazilian judiciary has also had a significant impact on elections. The most notorious example is that of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who through malign interference by the judiciary was prevented from running against Jair Bolsonaro in the 2018 elections due to a conviction for corruption. On the other hand, Bolsonaro himself is currently facing the suspension of his political rights, preventing him from running in the next elections. This suspension stems from convictions related to actions during his campaign and presidential term.

Both cases exemplify how the judiciary can decisively influence a nation's political landscape. In the US, without a specific electoral court, and in Brazil, with a structured electoral judicial system, the judiciary has become a crucial actor in elections. The judiciary's role in guaranteeing legality and ethics in the electoral process is vital, but its growing influence raises questions about the extent of its role.

Historical episodes in which the courts have intervened to convict or prevent candidates from taking part in elections are not uncommon. In Italy, for example, former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi faced several convictions that impacted his political career. In South Africa, former president Jacob Zuma was also involved in several court cases that affected his political career. Even former US president Bill Clinton almost had his career interrupted by an impeachment. And, to stay with the US, there's also the famous Watergate affair, in which pressure from the judiciary and the approval of an impeachment led then-president Nixon to resign in the mid-70s. 

Faced with so many facts, whether in a more liberal culture like the US or a more regulated one like Brazil, it is clear that the judiciary has become a tool for influencing electoral processes. Regardless of whether Donald Trump runs or not, and whether he wins or not, it is clear that this conviction will have profound impacts on the American electoral process. 

The importance of an active judiciary in protecting electoral integrity is undeniable. However, it is important to analyze the extent to which its actions are beneficial to electoral processes and the maintenance of democracy. A balance must be struck to ensure that the judiciary serves as a guardian of ethics and legality, without becoming an agent of political destabilization. The judiciary must act impartially, ensuring that its influence is always in favor of justice and democracy.

This is a fine line, especially when we see so many world leaders committing acts that open the door to trials and convictions. The answer to how to calibrate legal action in electoral processes is still nebulous. Lava Jato has left yet another nefarious legacy: the use of the judiciary to interfere in ongoing campaigns. The widows of Lava Jato today weep for the excessive interference of the judiciary, but they gave a standing ovation to a corrupt judge and his minions when they changed the electoral scenario and tried to exterminate the political class.

The pendulum of equilibrium should return to the center over time, but at a huge social cost. The lesson we must learn is that radicalism on the right or the left has serious consequences for the country's political stability. The political game must once again be played on the political chessboard, away from the judges. Interference in the campaign by the judiciary has become a parallel process in the political world, which interferes in both the election and the aftermath.

About Author

Maurício Ferro

What do soccer, wine, law, politics, and economics have in common? Much more than you can imagine. And contrary to what the popular saying says, they can and should be debated and analyzed, yes. Welcome to Maurício Ferro's site, a channel to create and exchange thoughts and opinions. Maurício Ferro is a lawyer, graduated from PUC university in Rio de Janeiro, with a Master's degree and specializations from universities such as the London School and the University of London. He studied OPM at Harvard Business School. Author of published works in the commercial and capital markets areas, and acting in the Board of Directors of large companies, he based his legal and executive career with a focus on Business Law. But his passion goes beyond the corporate world. A passionate Flamenguista, Mauricio knows the ins and outs of the professional world of soccer and other sports. He is a partner in innovative companies such as 2Blive, a global startup focused on technological solutions to fill the education gap, especially in areas of great need such as Africa. He also invests in the Flow Kana company, based in California, and focused on the scientific production of cannabis for various purposes, such as medicinal, clothing production, or recreational use. To all these ingredients, add a deep knowledge of wine and the delicious ways of winemaking. That is the recipe for what you will find here.

1 Comment

  • Another excellent article.

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