"Nothing will destroy us, neither me nor our ministers", maintained President Michel Temer during a ceremony at the government’s palace in Brasília on Monday, June 26th. On Monday evening, Attorney General Rodrigo Janot filed a charge with the Brazilian Supreme Court (STF) against Temer, accusing him of passive corruption.
This is the first time that an acting Brazilian president has been formally charged with a common crime. And two more charges from Janot against the president are expected: for obstruction of justice, and the formation of a criminal organization.
These charges might not destroy, but certainly aggravate the situation of the most unpopular presidential government since 1989. On June 24th, the Datafolha Institute released an opinion poll indicating that the Temer government is rated as good or very good by only 7% of the Brazilian population. A rate even lower than the impeached Dilma Rousseff’s, whom President Temer replaced last year.
The House of Representatives in Congress must now vote on whether the STF will try Temer. To proceed with the trial, a two-thirds majority (342 votes out of 513) is required. To block the charges, the president needs at least 172 votes. His supporters affirm that he has at least 240 votes. Temer’s political support base, however, has been increasingly unstable.
Although the supporting parties officially have a total of 411 votes in the House of Representatives, Temer’s government did not manage to gather the 308 votes to approve a constitutional amendment for the pension reform. In the Senate, where his majority is even more comfortable, Temer suffered from friendly fire as the labor reform bill was voted against at the Commission on Social Affairs on June 20th (another voting session is expected to take place on June 28th, at the Commission on Constitution and Justice).
This unstable political base may even support the president in the first charges by Janot. But, will it be willing to support him throughout two more exhausting charges? With the October 2018 elections approaching, parliamentarians question the extent to which their candidacies are worth being compromised by supporting an unpopular president who is now charged with being corrupt. The tragedy is that many of these parliamentarians represent an unpopular political class that is considered to be widely corrupt. The destruction of Temer and his ministers can reside precisely in their association to this group. And so can their salvation, if corporatism and “solidarity” prevails.
Temer’s administration will aggressively react to Janot’s charges in order to remain in office until December 31st, 2018. It still has resources, positions and influence in the Legislative and the Judiciary branches to do so. If it survives, however, no longer will it have the vitality and time to simply govern (on matters of health, education, and economics…) and Congress will be a dominating force. If it does not survive, whoever replaces Temer would not change the status quo, e.g. the current economic team and agendas in Congress would remain. Actual changes, therefore, if any, will probably happen only after January 1st, 2019 when a new president and Congress take office.
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