Temer Keeps Job as Brazil Court Nixes 2014 Election Charges

  • Four judges have voted to dismiss illegal financing case
  • Judgement removes most immediate threat to Temer’s presidency

Ian Bremmer Says Impeachment Likely Soon in Brazil

Brazil’s embattled President Michel Temer scored a breakthrough in his struggle to cling to power as Brazil’s top electoral court acquitted him of illegal campaign financing charges.

Four out of seven members acquitted Temer of charges that he and then President Dilma Rousseff accepted illegal contributions to their 2014 election campaign. A condemnation could have forced Temer out of office, plunging the country into a leadership crisis just over a year after his predecessor was impeached.

The court’s decision will buy Temer some time to address allegations of corruption and influence-trafficking that surfaced last month and prompted calls for his resignation or impeachment. The electoral court was seen as one of the most immediate threats to Temer’s mandate. According to Eurasia Group political consultancy, the chances of Temer not finishing his term now fall to 30 percent from 60 percent.

"It removes the main obstacle to Temer’s continuation in office," said Thomaz Favaro of consultancy Control Risks in a phone interview. "He’s cobbled together enough support to see off fresh threats, such as impeachment or indictment."

Many of Temer’s allies, weakened by corruption allegations and unwilling to destabilize yet further Brazil’s rattled political establishment, are now less likely to abandon the president. The government’s largest coalition partner, the PSDB party, scheduled a meeting for Monday to decide whether to continue backing Temer. Senior party figures have indicated that the court ruling could be decisive for the PSDB’s support.

The court decision shows that democracy is working in Brazil and the president will continue to work with Congress to achieve economic growth, said Alexandre Parola, a presidential spokesman, shortly after the court ruling.

Critics, however, say that the TSE’s decision has fostered a climate of impunity. "It’s created a precedent in which you can do whatever you like and no one gets punished in the race for the presidency," said Ronaldo Caiado, the leader of the Democratas party in the Senate.

Why Temer’s Acquittal Buys Him Time, Not Exoneration: QuickTake

Temer has enough votes to bar a possible impeachment process or an indictment by the Supreme Court should the prosecutor-general file charges against him, according to a cabinet member who tracks the government’s votes in Congress.

By law, a two-thirds majority is needed in the Chamber of Deputies for impeachment proceedings to begin or for the Supreme Court to put a sitting president on trial.

Numerous impeachment requests have been filed against the president, but so far the house speaker, Rodrigo Maia, has shown no indication of considering any of them. Maia, a loyal Temer ally, is next in line to the presidency.

Yet Temer, who has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and insisted he won’t resign, still faces a host of other challenges that could tip the balance of power against him, not least the risk of being implicated in further wrongdoing by plea bargain testimony from one of several former aides arrested in recent weeks.

The biggest threat to Temer is Rodrigo Rocha Loures, according to a presidential aide who requested anonymity. Rocha Loures is a legislator who prosecutors suspect acted as a criminal operator on the president’s behalf. The fear is he may strike a plea bargain agreement with prosecutors, offering testimony against the president in return for leniency, the person said.

"Even if he survives, Temer will continue to face risks," said Joao Augusto Castro Neves, from the Eurasia Group political consultancy. "Temer won’t be a phoenix arising from the ashes."

— With assistance by Samy Adghirni

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