The mandate of Brazilian President Michel Temer is hanging by a thread after he was linked to a giant corruption scandal last week. Here are five ways his term, which is set to run through 2018, could end early.
The former vice president to Dilma Rousseff could suffer the same fate as his predecessor. Legislators from opposition parties representing more than one-quarter of Brazil’s lower house of Congress already have requested to start the impeachment process. Over the weekend, the politically influential Brazilian Bar Association said Mr. Temer committed an impeachable offense by not reporting to authorities the details of a conversation he had in March with Joesley Batista, chairman of meatpacking giant JBS SA . In the recorded conversation, Mr. Batista told Mr. Temer about his efforts to tamper with an investigation against him by allegedly paying hush money to a jailed former congressman, among other things. Mr. Temer says he didn’t take Mr. Batista seriously. It is now up to House Speaker Rodrigo Maia—a Temer ally—to decide whether to accept the impeachment requests and ultimately bring them to a vote.
2) Electoral Court
Brazil’s top electoral court, known as the TSE, has been investigating allegations that the 2014 election was marred by “abuse of economic and political power” by Ms. Rousseff and her running mate, Mr. Temer. But until last week, the chances of the TSE nullifying the election results were seen as low. “We have long argued TSE’s ruling will be driven by political calculations,” said Eurasia Group analyst João Augusto de Castro Neves. “To the extent Temer’s removal from office is increasingly seen as a solution rather than a problem for institutional and economic stability, the road for the TSE to strip Temer from his seat is now open.”
Brazil’s Supreme Court accepted a request from Attorney General Rodrigo Janot last week to investigate Mr. Temer for corruption, obstruction of justice and criminal conspiracy. Mr. Temer has denied any wrongdoing. If the investigation leads to criminal charges, Mr. Temer may have to step down (although the law isn’t entirely clear). If he were to refuse, Congress would be under immense public pressure to impeach him.
Huge street demonstrations, often broadcast live on TVs hanging over the floor of Congress, have a record of influencing politics in Brazil. Millions took to the streets in 2015 and 2016 to call for the impeachment of Ms. Rousseff, hastening her removal. Turnout in nationwide demonstrations against Mr. Temer on Sunday was unexpectedly low, with bad weather likely playing a role. If upcoming protests swell in size, Mr. Temer will come under even greater pressure to resign.
With a 9% approval rating, Mr. Temer has little support outside of Brazil’s business and political elite, who see him as a capable reformer. But if his prospects of pushing tough economic measures through Congress become compromised by the scandal, he could lose his only base of support. The linchpin of Mr. Temer’s governing coalition—the center-right Brazilian Social Democracy Party—has so far avoided taking a clear position on the matter, and Mr. Temer has repeatedly vowed not to step down. But if the party abandons him, the president likely will be seen as a lame duck.
Write to Paul Kiernan at firstname.lastname@example.org