BRASILIA • Judges in Brazil's top electoral court were to start deciding yesterday whether President Michel Temer received illegal campaign funding in 2014, which could lead to his removal from office.
Mr Temer's opponents see a ruling by the court, called TSE, as a way out of the political crisis set off by corruption allegations against the centre-right leader, but a decision could take weeks if not months.
The case was postponed in April to allow for new evidence in Brazil's biggest corruption scandal involving billions of dollars in kickbacks paid by firms to scores of politicians and government officials. The ruling is key to the political future of Brazil, where the prospect of having a second president ousted in one year has generated uncertainty and weakened the Brazilian currency, stocks and bonds in recent days.
Mr Temer, the running mate of leftist president Dilma Rousseff who replaced her when she was impeached last year, said his campaign accounts received no illegal money.
If Mr Temer is removed from office, Lower House Speaker Rodrigo Maia would take over and Congress would have 30 days to pick a caretaker leader until elections late next year. If found guilty, Mr Temer is expected to appeal, which could delay the process for months.
The main ally in Mr Temer's governing coalition, the Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB), is waiting for the ruling to decide whether to abandon his government, which would sink his fiscal reform agenda.
The PSDB filed the case in 2014 after it lost the election to Ms Rousseff. Its lawyers called for her to be condemned and Mr Temer to be absolved, but that is now unlikely due to testimony by executives of meat producer JBS and engineering group Odebrecht, who allege they gave illegal funds to his campaign.
Federal prosecutor Nicolao Dino said Odebrecht paid 35 million reais (S$15 million) in illegal contributions to the Rousseff-Temer campaign and called on the court to annul the ticket.