Brazil's Lula says Bolsonaro push for military audit of voting machines 'deplorable'

BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brazilian President-elect Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva blasted outgoing President Jair Bolsonaro on Thursday for involving the armed forces in auditing the country's electronic voting system, which the current president says without proof is open to fraud.

Lula, who narrowly defeated Bolsonaro last month, said the pressure to issue a report has been "humiliating" and "deplorable" for the military, which is constitutionally barred from engaging in politics.

"A president, who is the supreme commander of the armed forces, had no right to involve them in setting up a commission to investigate electronic voting machines," Lula said in a speech to allied lawmakers in the capital Brasilia.

Lula said it was up to civil society, along with the political parties and Congress to carry out such monitoring.

The leftist leader, who takes office Jan. 1, said Bolsonaro should apologize to Brazilian society and the armed forces for pushing the military to issue "a report that says nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of what he has charged for so long."

The military audit was requested by Bolsonaro last year to get the military to identify problems with a voting system that he alleged - without proof - was liable to fraud.

Bolsonaro, a far-right politician who once served as an army captain, repeatedly claimed without evidence that the electronic voting system was vulnerable. He did not concede defeat but has allowed the transition to a Lula government to begin.

While the armed forces' report on the security of the electronic voting machines, made public on Wednesday, did not find specific issues it said there were vulnerabilities in the computer code that could potentially be exploited.

That finding may provide fodder for a small but committed protest movement among Bolsonaro supporters who refuse to accept Lula's victory and have asked the armed forces to intervene.

The Defense Ministry repeated on Thursday that, while the report pointed to no inconsistencies between the voting machines inspected by soldiers and the official results announced by national electoral authority, it could not rule out the possibility of fraud.

"It is not possible to guarantee that programs executed in the electronic voting machines are free from malicious insertions that alter their functioning," the military said in a statement.

(Reporting by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Aurora Ellis)