Political News

Multiple threats could lead to downfall of Brazil president

Posted June 8

— Brazil's top electoral court is considering whether to annul what is left of President Michel Temer's term because of allegations his ticket received illegal campaign contributions. While the Superior Electoral Tribunal is the most immediate risk to Temer's political survival, it's only one of several. Temer, vowing to continue in office despite calls for his resignation and approval ratings around 9 percent, faces the threat of being forced out of office by any of the following:

SUPERIOR ELECTORAL TRIBUNAL

Temer was re-elected vice president in 2014 as President Dilma Rousseff's running mate. He took over the presidency last year after Rousseff was impeached for illegally managing the federal budget. The court is currently reviewing allegations that their ticket received illegal campaign funding, and could annul their victory.

Should that happen, Temer would be stripped of the presidency. Temer could appeal such a decision with the electoral court. Should the court stay its decision, Temer could appeal to the Supreme Federal Tribunal, the country's highest court, which would have no deadline to make a judgment.

DAMAGING RECORDINGS

Attorney General Rodrigo Janot has opened an investigation into whether Temer conspired to obstruct Brazil's colossal Car Wash investigation into billions of dollars in inflated contracts and kickbacks to politicians, which launched in March 2014. Janot is also investigating Temer for corruption and conspiracy.

The case against Temer is partly based on a recording made by businessman Joesley Batista that appears to capture the president endorsing hush money for ex-House Speaker Eduardo Cunha, a former Temer ally serving a 15-year sentence for corruption.

Federal police delivered Temer 84 questions related to the allegations, the circumstances of his meeting with Batista and the intricate web of relations with other politicians, lobbyists and black market dealers.

Should Janot offer charges, the Supreme Federal Tribunal would send them to the lower Chamber of Deputies, which would create a commission to review the accusations. If a simple majority ruled the charges had merit, the matter would go to the full house. If two-thirds agreed then, Temer would be suspended for up to six months pending a trial in the Senate.

If the Supreme Federal Tribunal acquitted Temer, he would go back to his job. If Temer was found guilty, he would be removed from the presidency and possibly jailed.

JAILED AIDE

Former congressman Rodrigo Rocha Loures was arrested Saturday in the same corruption investigation targeting Temer.

Federal police released a video of Rocha Loures carrying a bag with 500,000 reals ($154,000) that prosecutors say included bribe money for Temer. As part of a plea bargain, the owners of the JBS meatpacking company accused Temer and Rocha Loures of receiving kickbacks.

The close aide to the president had some protections from prosecution as a congressman. Only the Supreme Federal Tribunal can decide whether federal lawmakers can be investigated. However, the court justice overseeing the Car Wash investigation ordered Rocha Loures removed from his post last month.

If Rocha Loures reaches a plea bargain, his testimony could further implicate Temer in a scandal that prompted many to call for his resignation.

COALITION POLITICS

Temer so far has been able to hold on to his presidency thanks to the backing of his Brazilian Democratic Movement Party and allies from the Brazilian Social Democracy Party.

Members of the Social Democratic Party support Temer's proposals for overhauling labor rules and the pension system, but reports indicate many in their ranks fear the corruption accusations against the president could tarnish their own party during next year's general elections.

Should they abandon Temer, it would sink his agenda and harm his strongest argument for staying in power: that he can lead Congress in passing the deeply unpopular labor and pension changes that many economists feel are necessary to pull the economy out of recession.

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Liliana Michelena on Twitter: https://twitter.com/lilimichelena

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