| BRASILIA, April 3
BRASILIA, April 3 Two landmark corruption trials
and the first hurdle for a crucial pension reform mean that
April could make or break Brazilian President Michel Temer's
presidency, or bring it to an abrupt end.
A Supreme Court judge is due to lift the seal on plea
bargain testimony that could lead to the dismissal of five
ministers. Temer's reform of Brazil's social security system -
key to his plans to restore fiscal discipline - also faces a
first vote in committee by mid-April.
But it is a case before the Supreme Electoral Tribunal
(TSE), opening on Tuesday, that could do most damage by
annulling the 2014 election of impeached ex-president Dilma
Rousseff - and her running mate Temer - for illegal campaign
It is the first time the court will rule on a sitting
president. A decision to annul the ticket would end Temer's
presidency and require Congress to elect a successor within 30
The TSE judge tasked with studying the case, Herman
Benjamin, is expected to recommend in a 1,086-page report
submitted last week that the court invalidate the election.
If a majority of the seven-member tribunal agrees, Temer, a
constitutional lawyer, has said he has plenty of tools for
appeal, including taking the case to the overburdened Supreme
Transparency Minister Torquato Jardim believes time is on
Temer's side because the appeals process is so slow the case
will drag on until Temer's mandate expires at the end of 2018.
"In practical terms, this means that President Temer will
not leave office until January 1, 2019," Jardim, a lawyer and a
friend of the president, told Reuters.
The TSE has scheduled four sessions this week to hear the
case but any judge can ask to study Benjamin's report,
postponing the process for weeks if not months.
"The problem is the president will be sub judice, and that
implies a loss of political power," said Jardim.
The publication of plea bargain testimony by 77 employees of
the Odebrecht engineering conglomerate this month will deliver
another bombshell for Temer's scandal-plagued coalition.
It is expected to name hundreds of politicians who took
bribes, including Temer's chief of staff and Congressional
leaders of his PMDB party. Temer has vowed to suspend ministers
who are charged and dismiss them if indicted.
Temer himself is not being investigated in the
investigation, codenamed Operation Car Wash. However, the
testimonies may add to evidence in the TSE case.
Folha de S.Paulo newspaper reported on Sunday a federal
prosecutor will seek the annulment of the Rousseff-Temer ticket
following testimony that Odebrecht illegally paid 112 million
reais ($36 million) to the campaign, almost half of it in bribes
to obtain favorable tax legislation.
The uncertainty could jeopardize the pension reform on which
Temer's success depends. If Temer finds himself weakened, he may
be forced to make more concessions on the bill, which has
triggered street protests.
A senior Temer aide, who asked not to be named, said the
scandal was holding back Brazil's recovery from its worst
recession on record. While inflation has fallen to the lowest
rate in three years, investment is yet to recover.
"The next month will be tumultuous because politics and
economics will get caught up in the same storm," the aide said,
adding that Temer was keen to press ahead with privatizations
and the auction of oil and gas rights.
The government has been encouraged by the muted protests
against its planned reforms, the aide said: "The risk is not in
the streets but in the TSE ... Temer hopes to put that behind
him so he can get on with the economic agenda."
(Editing by Daniel Flynn and Bernadette Baum)