Victory in Defeat as Brazil's Top Court Speeds Up Temer Case

Updated on
  • Charges against president now move to lower house of Congress
  • Lower house expected to vote against putting Temer on trial

A majority of Brazil’s Supreme Court rejected a request by lawyers for Michel Temer to suspend the criminal charges filed against him, a decision which may actually benefit the president by paving the way for a swift resolution to the case.

The bulk of the court’s 11 judges voted to throw out the defense’s argument on Wednesday, before the session came to a close. After the tribunal finishes its deliberations, the charges will move to the lower house of Congress. Temer needs the support of one third of the Chamber of Deputies to block the case from going to trial at the Supreme Court. Most analysts expect him to secure the necessary votes, as he did in August following another corruption charge.

Last week Brazil’s outgoing chief prosecutor, Rodrigo Janot, charged Temer with obstruction of justice and criminal conspiracy, saying that he and several of his closest aides took kickbacks from government contracts. Prior to the latest charges, Temer’s defense team had asked the Supreme Court to remove Janot from the investigation and to invalidate evidence based on plea bargains struck between prosecutors and executives from the meat-packing giant JBS.

Temer’s defense team’s original strategy may have been to get the testimony against the president thrown out, according to Guilherme Pena, a professor of constitutional law at CERS, but the defeat actually suits his administration well. "For the government a swift resolution would be better," he said. "A case like this undermines stability, so for political and economic reasons it would be good to settle it quickly."

If the Supreme Court had voted for a suspension, the allegations could have dragged on for months before a final decision by the judges, undermining the president’s support in Congress as he attempts to muster the votes for an unpopular pension reform bill.

With the case’s progress to the lower house now secure, the government expects lawmakers to vote to shelve the charges by mid-October, according to a senior aide who requested anonymity.

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