Brazil’s Supreme Court decided that Renan Calheiros can remain as Senate President, but is no longer in the presidential succession line. On Monday, Justice Marco Aurélio Mello ordered his suspension from the position, but the Senate refused to comply with the decision.
According to Justice Mello, the fact that Calheiros is a defendant in a criminal investigation makes him unfit for an office that puts him in the presidential succession line. Back in November, the Supreme Court decided that people under criminal prosecution couldn’t occupy the presidency.
But the court has not made a final decision because one of the Justices asked for more time to analyze the issue. That made it possible for the Justice to make Wednesday’s unorthodox decision: Renan Calheiros stay put, just won’t replace the President under any circumstances.
Justice Marco Aurélio Mello, who defended the full removal of Calheiros, called the final ruling a “constitutional aberration.”
The decision was a solution by the Supreme Court to pacify Brazil’s institutional crisis. Without Calheiros at the helm of the Senate, the federal administration wouldn’t be able to approve the federal spending cap – its main austerity package.
At the beginning of the trial, Justice Marco Aurélio Mello highlighted that the Senate deliberately defied the Supreme Court. “To not obey a judicial decision is to challenge the very notion of a democratic state,” he said.
Several other Justices reprimanded Calheiros and the Senate, but six of the nine voting judges opted for the alternative solution. Brazil’s Chief Prosecutor, Rodrigo Janot, disagreed with the ruling: “We can’t separate an office from its prerogatives. Regardless of who occupies the position, the rules should be the same,” he said.
Jabuticaba, the Brazilian grapefruit, is typical from Brazil. With time, the word came to describe something that only occurs in the country. And occasionally, the Brazilian establishment pulls a “political jabuticaba” – as the Supreme Court did on Wednesday.