May 18 President Michel Temer's one-year-old
government has been hit broadside by allegations that he may
have obstructed justice by endorsing payment of hush money to a
defendant in Brazil's sprawling "Car Wash" corruption
Temer said on Thursday he would not resign, but his hold on
office has become tenuous.
The following are the threats he faces:
FORCED TO QUIT
If his coalition allies abandon him, as some have started to
do, Temer would no longer have enough support to govern Brazil
and pass austerity measures badly needed to bring a gaping
budget deficit under control. He would be forced to resign,
which could happen as soon as next week.
The speaker of the lower house of Congress, Rodrigo Maia,
who is next in line of succession due to the absence of a vice
president, would take over until Congress elects a new president
within 30 days to lead the country until the end of next year.
Among those mentioned as possible candidates in an indirect
election of president by Congress are Finance Minister Henrique
Meirelles, Chief Justice Carmen Lucia Rocha and former Defense
Minister Nelson Jobim.
Four leftist opponents of his center-right government have
filed requests to open impeachment proceedings against Temer for
obstruction of justice. He would need more than one-third of the
votes in the lower chamber to block impeachment, which he may
not have if his coalition continue to crumble.
An impeachment would take months, as happened last year with
the ouster of Dilma Rousseff. In the meantime, the political
uncertainty in a drifting country would likely deepen Brazil's
worst recession on record.
ELECTORAL COURT RULING
The biggest threat to Temer's survival could be a ruling by
Brazil's top electoral court, known as the TSE, annulling the
results of the 2014 election won by the Rousseff-Temer ticket
for the use of illegal funds in the campaign.
The court will start hearing the case on June 6 and its view
is expected to be influenced by the country's need to resolve
the political crisis which could speed up a decision.
Temer's lawyers have argued that Rousseff's campaign
managers were responsible for under-the-table payments since he
was only the running mate. That line of defense may not convince
the judges after the new allegations.
SUPREME COURT PROBE
Brazil's top court opened an investigation on Thursday into
the possible obstruction of justice by the president. If it
indicts Temer, he would have to step down.
The Supreme Court usually takes more than a year to come up
with its findings in such probes into wrongdoing by politicians,
and Temer would likely survive to the end of the term.
Temer's opponents, led by Rousseff's Workers Party which was
ousted with her impeachment after 13 years in power, are calling
for early elections to replace Temer, whom they accuse of
conspiring to replace Rousseff when he was her vice president.
Brazil's presidential system has no provision for calling
elections before the end of the four-year presidential term, so
this would require a constitutional amendment, a drawn out
process which requires a three-fifths majority in Congress.
That would only happen with massive public support and
street demonstrations that Brazil has not seen since 2013.
(Reporting by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)