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Court clears Brazil's Temer

June 10, 2017

An electoral court has ruled to drop illegal campaign financing allegations against President Michel Temer. However, he still faces possible corruption and obstruction of justice charges.

Brasilien Präsident Michel Temer in Brasilia
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/PR/M. Correa

Brazil's top electoral court on Friday dismissed a case against President Michel Temer that could have removed him from office.

The Supreme Electoral Tribunal voted 4-3 to drop allegations of illegal campaign financing in the 2014 election, when Temer was the vice presidential running mate of impeached President Dilma Rousseff.

The ruling gives Temer some space as Brazil is plagued by recession and multiple political corruption scandals. Temer himself still faces another potential corruption case that is likely to loom over his presidency in the next months. 

Judge Luiz Fux, who voted to remove Temer, said the campaign finance allegations were "very serious crimes."

"The facts are very serious, unbearable," he said.

The court's top judge and member of the Supreme Court, Gilmar Mendes, argued the country's electoral financing laws needed reform and the country stability. 

Read: Stress test for Brazilian democracy

"You don't switch the president of the republic every hour," he said, casting the deciding vote to drop the case. "There are serious proven facts but not enough to annul the mandate."

The campaign finance case was first filed in 2014 alleging the Rousseff-Temer ticket received unfair and illegal campaign contributions from corporations.

The case against Temer was bolstered after dozens of current and former executives at the construction company Odebrecht provided details about millions of dollars in bribes and illegal campaign donations as part of a plea-bargain.

Odebrecht is under investigation for receiving billions of dollars in questionable contracts and giving bribes to politicians.

The electoral court ruled not to accept the plea bargain testimonies in Temer's case.

Brazil corruption crisis lingers on

Temer took over from Rousseff last year after she was impeached for violating budget laws, in what her leftist allies dubbed a coup.

Not in the clear yet

A third of Temer's cabinet and dozens of members of congress face corruption allegations that have fueled public anger and protests.

Having cleared the illegal campaign financing allegations, Temer will now have to fend off potential charges of obstruction of justice and corruption.

Prosecutor General Rodrigo Janot alleges Temer paid hush money to ex-House Speaker Eduardo Cunha, who is serving a 15 year prison sentence for corruption and money laundering. 

The purported evidence against Temer includes a recording that emerged last month of a conversation with a top executive of meatpacker JBS SA. The recording appears to feature Temer approving bribes to Cunha to prevent him from providing testimony about corruption.

However, Temer says the tapes were doctored.

But a close aide to the president, Rodrigo Rocha Loures, was arrested earlier this month after police video caught him picking up a bag of alleged bribe money worth around $152,000 (136,000 euros) given to him by a JBS executive.   

Apparently emboldened by the electoral court's ruling, Temer is refusing to meet a Friday deadline to answer 82 questions demanded by prosecutors to build a case.

But Janot may now file formal charges against Temer, which would need to be approved by a two-thirds majority in congress before going to the Supreme Court.

cw/msh (AFP, AP, Reuters)