It appears respite for Brazil’s president Michel Temer is in order.
As the entire political class of Brazil continues to feel the heat of the seemingly never ending Car Wash investigation, taking down politician after politician, business magnate after business magnate, Temer has dodged but the latest bullet that had his presidency written all over it. Late last week, Brazil’s Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) acquitted Michel Temer of electoral fraud charges he shared with the deposed Dilma Rousseff in a 4-3 vote.
It was a close call. The evidence that was submitted included a recent tape provided by Joesley Batista, chairman of the world’s biggest meatpacking company (JBS), as part of a plea bargain, in which Temer is said to have negotiated bribes with Eduardo Cunha, former speaker of the lower house (and now in prison).
What appeared to be a guaranteed death sentence, however, was ultimately dismissed, as Temer cast doubt not only upon the validity of the tape but also its scratchy quality.
No doubt, the news were received with fury, as confidence in the Brazilian political system is all but lost. A study published last year by the International Court of Justice, shows public confidence in all of Brazil’s political branches were below 11% while even the judiciary branch was down to 29%. To make matters worse, the military enjoyed the greatest public confidence out of all the public institutions (at 59 %) – startling evidence, given the country’s past of military dictatorship. That Temer’s popularity is at 20 percent (tested six months ago) should be reason for great concern, too.
Even more worrying is that international financial institutions appear ambivalent at the ongoing political crisis in Brazil. Indeed, they may be Temer’s greatest support, whose market reforms are bringing an end to heterodox government involvement in the economy, ushered in by the Workers’ Party (PT). It seems the closer Temer’s presidency comes to circling the drain, the more the market rallies.
However, as the composition of congress continues to crumble under the weight of unrelenting investigations that expose deeper levels of corruption, Temer increasingly finds himself without the experienced (and corrupt) allies his reforms have come to rely on. Indeed, operation Car Wash continues to erode at the entire upper-mantle of the political class, leaving behind an increasingly inexperienced middle strata of political managers to take the reigns of politics.
While our bets are on Temer maintaining his firm grips on the office and surviving the political pitfalls that surround him, the true question lies with the health of Brazilian society. Lacking a deep and fundamental revision of the Brazilian political system in its entirety and the political culture that has endured over centuries, it is unlikely that social instability will simply up and vanish. The kinds of fundamental social contradicts that are being maintained and deepened, and are stirring popular indignity leaving only a fragmented and startling vision of Brazil’s future.