Brazilian president set to face corruption charges

Michel Temer survives vote on mandate and maintains he is victim of conspiracy

Brazil's long-running political crisis risks descending into open conflict between its leading institutions after a dramatic weekend that started with the president, Michel Temer, surviving a vote on his mandate but ended with him on the verge of being formally charged with corruption.

On Friday evening the most immediate threat to Mr Temer's mandate was removed when the electoral court voted to dismiss a request that the winning ticket in the 2014 presidential election – when he was the running mate of subsequently impeached president Dilma Rousseff – be cancelled over illegal campaign financing.

After four days of fractious debate the court voted four to three to dismiss the case even though lower courts had already convicted several people linked to the Rousseff-Temer ticket of breaking the law.

The decision by a majority of the electoral court to exclude on a technicality the evidence gathered by investigations into corruption was greeted with scepticism by many jurists and with ridicule on social media.


There was also widespread anger that two judges appointed by Mr Temer to the court earlier this year, when the case against him was already well advanced, voted to maintain him in office.

Judiciary criticised

The head of the electoral court, supreme court justice Gilmar Mendes, was also singled out for criticism.

Many observers pointed out that he fought to keep the case against the 2014 election winners alive when Ms Rousseff was president but turned against it once Mr Temer replaced her. Mr Mendes is notoriously close to parties that make up the president’s coalition and widely considered the most politically partisan of Brazil’s supreme court justices.

Mr Mendes was criticised in May when an institute in which he is a shareholder announced Mr Temer would attend one of its events which was being sponsored by the federal government.

Mr Temer had little time to savour Friday’s victory as the crisis deepened on Saturday when Cármen Lúcia, the highly respected president of the supreme court, issued a statement warning that any use of Brazil’s secret services to spy on her court would constitute “a very grave crime”.

She was reacting to a report that Mr Temer asked his spy masters to prove some link between supreme court justice Edson Fachin and Brazilian meat baron Joesley Batista. Mr Batista has implicated the president in corruption and obstruction of justice. Mr Fachin is the supreme court member handling the investigation into the affair.

Mr Temer vehemently denied the accusation of spying but woke up on Sunday to reports that Brazil’s top federal prosecutor will formally file corruption charges against him with Mr Fachin as early as this week after one of his closest aides was filmed receiving a bag with 500,000 reais [€135,000] in cash from one of Mr Batista’s executives.

Mr Temer has refused to answer police questions authorised by the supreme court about the matter. He maintains he is the victim of a conspiracy against him.

Tom Hennigan

Tom Hennigan

Tom Hennigan is a contributor to The Irish Times based in South America