RIO DE JANEIRO – Brazil's top electoral court is considering whether to annul what is left of President Michel Temer's term because of allegations his 2014 campaign ticket received illegal contributions. While that's the most immediate threat to Temer's political survival, it's only one of several. Temer vows to continue in office despite calls for his resignation and approval ratings around 9 percent, but could be forced out of office by any of the following:
SUPERIOR ELECTORAL TRIBUNAL
Vice President Temer took over the presidency after Dilma Rousseff was impeached for illegally managing the federal budget. The Superior Electoral Tribunal is currently reviewing allegations that their 2014 campaign received illegal funding, and could annul their victory. That would strip Temer of the presidency. He could appeal that decision to the supreme court, the Supreme Federal Tribunal, which would have no deadline to make a judgment.
Attorney General Rodrigo Janot is investigating whether Temer conspired to obstruct Brazil's colossal Car Wash investigation into billions of dollars in inflated contracts and kickbacks to politicians. Janot is also investigating Temer for alleged corruption and conspiracy.
The case 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.
Temer has been asked to answer 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 file charges, the supreme court would send them to the lower house of Congress for review. If a legislative commission there decided the charges have 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 Temer were acquitted, he would go back to his job. If found guilty, he would be removed from the presidency and possibly jailed.
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.
Only the Supreme Federal Tribunal can decide whether federal lawmakers such as Loures can be investigated. However, the court justice overseeing the Car Wash investigation ordered Rocha Loures removed from his post last month while a corruption investigation case against him runs its course.
If Rocha Loures reaches a plea bargain, his testimony could further implicate Temer in a scandal that prompted many to call for his resignation.
Temer so far has been able to hold on to his presidency thanks to the backing of his own Brazilian Democratic Movement Party and allies from the Brazilian Social Democracy Party, which backs Temer's proposals for overhauling labor rules and the pension system. But reports indicate many in its 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 changes that many economists feel are necessary to pull the economy out of recession.
Liliana Michelena on Twitter: https://twitter.com/lilimichelena