Brazil fumbles with legal solutions to corruption scandal

Brazil fumbles with legal solutions to corruption scandal

Will Temer stay in office? If not, how will his replacement be chosen?
Brazil Politics

It seems that a polarized Brazil has finally agreed on one thing: both the left and the right want President Michel Temer gone. Fair enough. The president appears in a highly compromising audio recording with a notoriously corrupt businessman. Plus, even prior to the corruption scandal, Temer seemed poised to break all records of unpopularity.

But if Temer’s gone, what happens next? According to the Constitution, the new head of state would be chosen through an indirect election. In a Sunday article, plus55 Content Director Gustavo Ribeiro discussed the unpredictability of the election. However, the uncertainty is far worse than we thought.

Seven months ago, scholars from the State University of Rio de Janeiro presented a motion to the Supreme Court. They asked the Supreme Court to rule that, in the case of cassation of the president in the Superior Electoral Court, the country should hold new direct elections.

The risk of cassation was never bigger. Brazil’s Electoral Court starts a trial on June 6 to determine if the Michel Temer-Dilma Rousseff 2014 presidential campaign won because of money from bribery schemes. As the president clings to his office, the possibility of him losing the trial grows by the day.

The Constitution

The Constitution is pretty clear about situations like the one in which President Temer now finds himself. Article 81 states that if the positions of president and VP are vacant “during the two last years of a term”, a new election for both positions will take place within 30 days in Congress.

In 2015, however, Congress passed a bill that changes that time frame. Direct elections would be possible until up to 6 months before the end of the term. But in the case of conflict between the Constitutional text and a new law, the Constitution always wins.

Legal experts have condemned the exit through direct elections. Professor Eloísa Machado, from Fundação Getulio Vargas, has said to Folha de S. Paulo that “going against the Constitution is to run away from democracy.”

The Supreme Court will have the final say on the matter.