With court victory, hand of Brazil's president strengthened

Saturday, 10 Jun, 2017

Brazil's President Michel Temer attends during ceremony of merit of the naval order, in Brasilia, Brazil, Friday, June 9, 2017.

The court voted 4-3 to acquit the Rousseff-Temer ticket, avoiding the removal of Temer, who has been besieged by economic recession and corruption scandals since replacing Rousseff previous year. His popularity is in single digits and he is facing allegations that he endorsed the payment of hush money to a former lawmaker who has been convicted and jailed for corruption.

The case is only one of several threats to Temer's presidency, which has become mired in scandal since he took over from Rousseff past year after she was removed for illegally managing the federal budget.

During four days of deliberations, judges argued about the strength of the evidence and whether recent plea bargains should be included.

If the court finds the campaign received illegal financing, Temer could be removed from office, adding further to the country's political turmoil.

But nobody really knows the rules of this kind of election because it has never happened before. It could also have also made both Temer and Rousseff ineligible to take office for eight years.

A guilty verdict would have annulled the 2014 victory, thus stripping Temer of the rest of his mandate.

"The questionnaire is an attack on his dignity and the position he occupies, as well as an infringement on various legal provisions and individual rights enshrined in the constitution", Temer's lawyers said in a letter addressed to Supreme Court Justice Luiz Edson Fachin. The executives provided shocking details of tens of millions of dollars in bribes and illegal campaign contributions, including to the Rousseff-Temer ticket. 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.

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But analysts say Janot could soon move from the current investigation to requesting formal charges.

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

The Supreme Court approved the investigation into the president late last month.

While Temer has survived another day, the future will be hard. It is very easy to talk about morality, fighting against corruption.

Brazil finally emerged out of recession in the first quarter of this year, after two years of negative growth, and Mr Temer said he was the only one capable of bringing the stability needed for full economic recovery.

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.

"Temer will argue, 'I'm the guy who is going to give the country the bitter remedy that will cure it", said Carlos Manhanelli, political marketing specialist and chairman of the Brazilian Association of Political Consultants. Upon being informed that hush money was being paid to Cunha, Temer simply responded, "Look, you've got to keep that up".