Brazilian President Michel Temer already has a world of trouble to deal with and next week a court could in theory annul his presidency altogether. Temer is widely expected to find a way to escape this. But the mere fact that a court is considering such a thing shows the depths of uncertainty in Latin America’s biggest country as it wallows in a huge corruption scandal and a two-year recession.
The issue dates back to 2014 when Temer was vice president on the winning ticket of leftist Dilma Rousseff’s reelection to the presidency. They are accused — as are swaths of other politicians –of taking undeclared campaign funds from corrupt donors. The Supreme Electoral Court’s job is to rule on whether the election was fatally compromised. Deliberations will begin Tuesday and are scheduled to run through the week.
If the court decides to annul the 2014 results, new elections would be organized or the country’s highly discredited Congress would pick an interim leader. Many analysts think the government will succeed in fending off this doomsday decision.
However, the case highlights the dizzying fall of Brazil from its days as an emerging markets powerhouse and increasingly respected international player up until around 2010. Brazil is still traumatized by last year’s impeachment of Rousseff for illegal government accounting practices, bringing Temer, her conservative coalition partner, to power.
Since he took over, Temer has been plagued by rock-bottom approval ratings and a wave of corruption allegations against his allies. Despite his unpopularity, Temer says he will push through far-reaching austerity reforms to fix the broken budget and serve out the rest of Rousseff’s original term until scheduled elections at the end of 2018. First he has to survive next week. Many think he will manage.
“There’s total calm. The president has time on his side, because there are many legal options,” said a government source, who asked not to be named. Temer’s center-right PMDB party and allied parties control Congress and they have the backing of big business. There is little appetite for yet another abrupt change of president just when economic reforms are underway.