Brasília: President Michel Temer expressed confidence on Wednesday that he will not be toppled by a growing corruption scandal as Brazil’s election court debated whether to strip him of his mandate.
The Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) is examining whether the 2014 reelection of president Dilma Rousseff and her then vice-president Temer should be invalidated because of corrupt campaign funding.
If the court votes to scrap the election result, Temer — who took over only last year when Rousseff was impeached — would himself risk losing his office, forcing Brazil’s congress to pick an interim president.
The seven-judge panel had been expected to start voting during a session lasting all Wednesday morning, but debates over the complex case forced them to push back the schedule, with extra sessions planned for Thursday and possibly Friday.
Temer, who faces a separate, potentially devastating probe at the Supreme Court into alleged obstruction of justice, said he was confident that he will ride out the turmoil and finish his term.
“We will lead the government until 31 December, 2018,” the centre-right leader told a gathering of agribusiness leaders at the presidential palace. “Do we have the right to be pessimistic about Brazil? Or should we be optimistic?” he asked.
Even if found guilty at the TSE, Temer would be able to appeal. A judge on the TSE could also decide to adjourn the court hearings, with the whole process potentially then dragging on for weeks.
“The president is calm. He is waiting for the court’s decision,” Temer’s lawyer Gustavo Guedes said as he entered the court on Wednesday.
Analysts say that the initial reading of the court’s deliberations makes acquittal more likely for Temer.
“Apparently the most probable thing is that the president will escape, although that doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. In Brazil it’s the most likely outcome,” said Albert Almeida, at the Analysis Institute.
The Eurasia Group issued a note saying that “there are growing signs President Michel Temer could well enjoy a majority on the court.”
The first to cast a vote will be the lead justice on the case, Herman Benjamin. He is widely predicted to vote against Temer, but the court’s president Gilmar Mendes has made arguments indicating he will lean the other way.
Until recently, few analysts thought the TSE would convict Temer, allowing him instead to complete his mandate.