Published: Sat, June 10, 2017
Health Care | By Oscar Goodwin

Brazil's electoral court keeps Temer in office

Temer opponents had been counting on a TSE ruling against the scandal-hit president to force him from office.

The electoral court, known as the TSE, voted 4-3 to acquit the Rousseff-Temer ticket of wrongdoing. Soon after, details of another bombshell emerged: that Temer was being investigated for taking bribes.

While looking increasingly unlikely, if the electoral court finds wrongdoing, Temer, who took over from Rousseff following her removal from office past year, could be pushed from power himself.

Brazil's top electoral court is considering whether to annul what is left of President.

A ruling against them would have annulled the 2014 election, forcing Temer out of office.

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The Temer and Rousseff defense teams requested the testimony be scrapped by the court, holding that it went beyond the scope of an original complaint filed by the Brazilian Social Democracy Party after it lost the 2014 election.

The Supreme Electoral Tribunal is deciding whether Temer, who was then a vice presidential candidate, and his running mate former President Dilma Rousseff received illegal financing for their 2014 run.

In a decisive move, that same majority had ruled on Thursday to not allow as evidence in the case plea-bargain testimony from 77 executives of the Odebrecht construction firm, which is at the center of a vast political graft scheme. The narrow not-guilty verdict by the court's seven judges on Friday saved Temer from immediate disaster - but not embarrassment. The country is caught in a political crisis triggered by its biggest ever political graft investigation and last year's impeachment of Rousseff, whose supporters called it a soft coup arranged by Temer and allies to thwart the graft probe. While Temer had vowed to appeal any conviction, it would have weakened his hand in a climate of several corruption scandals and a public furious at politicians.

One of them, Napoleao Nunes Maia Filho, defended his decision by noting that democratic elections should only be overturned in the most exceptional circumstances.

Claudio Couto, a political science professor at Fundacao Getulio Vargas, a Sao Paulo-based university and think tank, called the court decision "demoralizing" for ignoring evidence against Temer.

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"But for now, the trend seems to be a weak Temer administration going forward, with little chance of passing any meaningful measures", said Couto. It is very easy to talk about morality, fighting against corruption.

The main parties in Temer's coalition have stuck with him so far, but several reports have reflected worry in the ranks that being associated with his government could be detrimental to re-election campaigns next year.

The president is also accused of receiving bribes by way of his former aide, Rodrigo Rocha Loures, who was arrested on June 3 after police released video that authorities said showed him carrying a suitcase containing $154,000.

Ironically, Temer's strongest claim to stay in power is the argument that he can deliver major reforms to labor laws and the country's pension system. While deeply unpopular among Brazilians, many economists have argued they are necessary to help pull Latin America's largest nation from recession and many members of Congress want them passed, if anything to be able to point at something besides widespread corruption.

"Temer has the votes to stay in office", said Welber Barral, a Brasília insider and political consultant who is following the case closely, as is much of the country and its investors.

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