Brazil’s top court has acquitted President Michel Temer of illegal campaign funding during the 2014 presidential election.
The Brazilian president is surrounded by scandal. He has been accused of using illegal campaign funding, he was part of a coup against the last president, and his voice is on a tape bribing the ex-Speaker of the House. He is also being investigated for obstruction of justice, corruption, and racketeering.
This ruling removes one accusation from the list, and gives the wobbling president some breathing room to pull his coalition together and pass his fiscal reform agenda in Congress to try to restore investors’ confidence in the country.
Two of the judges who made the decision to clear Mr Temer on these charges were appointed by him to the electoral court. It was decided not to admit key evidence from 77 executives of a construction firm which was given as part of a plea bargain. The same firm is at the centre of a political graft scheme. In the end 4-3 voted to acquit the president of any wrongdoing.
The court’s Chief Judge, Gilmar Mendes, stated that Brazil could not simply change president all the time, even if the people wish it. This is a huge blow for the credibility of the Brazilian judiciary system, which appears to be under the thumb of a potentially corrupt government.
Mr Temer is expected to soon face charges over receiving bribes and condoning the payment of hush money and bribes given to potential witnesses in a political graft scheme known as the Car Wash Investigation.
The Supreme Court approved an investigation into the president last month, but for him to be put on trial requires a two-thirds majority in the lower house of Congress, where Mr Temer still has a majority. However, with the 2018 elections looming ever nearer, the government’s coalition majority looks increasingly weak as parties break away to form a new coalition and distance themselves from a government with low approval ratings.
The next few months are not going to get easier for Brazil’s unpopular president as the corruption investigation continues both into the president and his government.