Brazil's impeachment boomerang
Brazilian President Michel Temer since taking office, in May 2016, has faced one crisis after the other, and now the man who rose to power thanks to an impeachment process of Dilma Rousseff, faces himself the threat of removal from office.
Federal Electoral Prosecutor have asked for his impeachment in a case about corruption during the 2014 presidential race. The Dilma Rousseff-Michel Temer presidential campaign is accused of being financed with dodgy money. The case goes on trial at Brazil’s Superior Electoral Court next Tuesday. If the simple majority of the nine justices vote for a conviction, it will annul the 2014 race. As a result, Temer, who was on the ticket, loses his job.
The ongoing investigation to campaign funding has top executives at Brazil’s largest construction firms detailing how they helped with financing. The money came from overpriced public works contracts with government institutions. Part of the revenue then went to the pockets of politicians and their parties’ accounts.
However Michel Temer’s defense team has come up with an original and unorthodox strategy. In effect they claim that then vice-president Temer wasn’t familiar with the campaign funds. They argue that former President Dilma Rousseff and her running mate had separate financial committees. Therefore, he shouldn’t be held accountable for Rousseff’s wrongdoings.
However, former CEO of construction company Andrade Gutierrez gave a pretty damaging statement on the matter. He declared that his company donated US$ 300.000 to the Workers Party National Committee back in 2014 as part of a contract deal. But it turns out that the check was not addressed to Rousseff’s campaign committee, but to then vice president hopeful Michel Temer and his party, PMDB.
Nevertheless analysts believe Temer still has a few possible trump cards. Even when Justice Herman Benjamin, will call for the President’s removal from office, Temer has an ally in the court’s presiding Justice, Gilmar Mendes. Also, two of the court’s members will retire in the upcoming months, and Temer will be to name the replacements, and has strong congressional support.
The case dates back to November 2014, following the presidential election. Center-right party PSDB called foul play on the election, stating that the Dilma Rousseff/Michel Temer ticket had committed “abuse of authority”. Even after Rousseff’s impeachment (for other reasons), the case went on, as Temer was part of the campaign.
The irony of this case is that PSDB is now Temer’s most important ally. In its closing statements as plaintiff in the electoral case, PSDB tried to let the Brazilian President off the hook. PSDB lawyers stated that “there is no evidence that [Temer] took part in any wrongdoing during the campaign.”
If Temer is forced out of office, then new, indirect presidential elections will have to take place within three months. In the meantime, House Speaker Rodrigo Maia will be the country’s interim President.
To avoid that outcome, Temer wants to stall the process as much as he can. His allies believe that, as the October 2018 presidential race draws closer, the Electoral Court would want to avoid creating even more turmoil. Furthermore impeachment of two presidents in twelve months would be highly negative for the country and its institutions. Both the Supreme Court and Electoral Court will have to be most prudent in such a prudent situation with the economy still struggling to climb out of two years running of deep recession, unseen in Brazil for almost a century.