By Jay Forte, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The political landscape in Brazil avoided another upheaval yesterday (Friday, June 9th) when the Superior Electoral Court (TSE) voted against the annulment of the Dilma-Temer presidential campaign ticket, which won the 2014 elections.
The charges filed were allegations of illegal campaign financing and an abuse of political and economic power, but the TSE voted 4 to 3 in favor of the sitting President Michel Temer, and recently impeached Dilma Rousseff.
The results of the 2014 elections were being challenged by the PSDB (Brazilian Social Democrat Party) with allegations that there were irregularities in the winning ticket’s donations, including suspicion that the Rousseff-Temer campaign received funds linked to the mega-corruption scheme dubbed Operação Lava Jato (Car Wash Operation).
If irregularities were found to be true, President Michel Temer (PMDB) could be ousted from the presidency. Temer became president after an impeachment process to remove ex-President Rousseff (PT) due to borrowed money from state-owned banks to pay for federal social programs.
However the TSE vote was announced by the president of the court, minister Gilmar Mendes. In his vote, Gilmar mentioned that he was the rapporteur of the PSDB’s initial request for the reopening of Dilma-Temer’s accounts and said, however, that the request was approved by the court for review of the material, and not for summary conviction.
“First, it is necessary to judge, and then to condemn. This issue is sensitive because it has as its background the popular sovereignty,” he defended. Mendes also added during his vote that “it is not up to the TSE to solve the political crisis” of the country.
President Michel Temer said that the decision of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) not to cancel the Dilma-Temer elected in 2014 ticket was taken “independently” after a “full and absolute” debate in which “the Justice” prevailed.
Through the spokesman of the presidency, Alexandre Parola, Temer said he will abide by the Electoral Court’s deliberation with “sobriety, humility and respect”.
Four of the seven ministers voted that there is insufficient evidence to withdraw the mandate from the ticket. In addition, most assessed that the allegations of former Odebrecht executives can not be included in the trial because they were not in the original petition for the case, made by the PSDB in 2014.
Ministers Napoleão Nunes Maia, Admar Gonzaga and Tarcisio Vieira also voted for the acquittal. Luiz Fux and Rosa Weber accompanied the rapporteur, Herman Benjamin, voted for the annulment of the plate.
Most of the ministers also argued that the remaining evidence, such as other statements from Lava Jato operatives, who testified to bribes paid to the presidential campaign, are not sufficient to conclude that the funds diverted to the PT and PMDB swayed the 2014 vote.
Temer and Rousseff maintained separate defenses during the trial. Rousseff’s campaign denied any irregularity and maintains that the entire process of hiring and distributing the products was documented and monitored.
The defense of President Michel Temer said PMDB’s election campaign has nothing to do with suspicious payments. According to the lawyers, no irregularity in the payment of services is known.
All this happens in the midst of the largest corruption scheme ever uncovered, in Brazil or possibly anywhere, the Java Lato scandal where billions of public money was funneled off into private bank accounts and political ‘contributions’. The mega-graft scheme was set up under the PT administration.
Last month, JBS former CEO, Joesley Batista released recordings of a conversation he had with President Temer earlier this year, where Brazil’s leader is heard telling the meatpacking executive to continue to pay off former Chamber of Deputies president, Eduardo Cunha, for his silence.
Temer has denied wrongdoing in the face of increasing turmoil and has vowed to stay in office, while his approval ratings remain in the single digits, according to local news outlets.