President Michel Temer urged Brazil's top electoral court to decide quickly on a case alleging illegal funding of his 2014 campaign in order to lift political uncertainty overshadowing a recovery in Latin America's largest economy.
Helped by bumper soy and corn harvests, Brazil's economy managed to grow in the first quarter following its most painful recession in more than a century, senior officials said on the eve of an investment summit in Sao Paulo.
Finance Minister Henrique Meirelles told reporters the economy likely grew by around 0.7% in the first quarter versus the previous one, with the incipient recovery evident in several sectors of the economy.
However, the minister said growth probably sagged in the second quarter. Uncertainty over the government's reform agenda and a broadening graft scandal was capped this month by plea bargain deals by executives at meatpacking company JBS who accused Temer of endorsing the alleged bribery of a potential witness in a corruption probe.
Temer has denied any wrongdoing and said he will fight the allegations. Speaking to a small group of foreign journalists on Monday, Temer said that declining inflation, falling interest rates and rising investment in the first quarter showed that Brazil's underlying economy was increasingly robust.
This crisis is more political than economic, he said, adding that his government would press ahead with reforms to ease labor market conditions and raise the pension age.
However Temer's coalition are waiting the decision by the Supreme Electoral Tribunal next week before deciding whether to commit to Temer, whose approval ratings are languishing around single digits.
The Brazilian president urged the electoral tribunal to decide promptly on the campaign finance case. A ruling against Temer would in theory strip him of office, though he is expected to appeal to the Supreme Court, which would drag the case out for several more months.
If there was a definitive solution it would be very useful because even with the country back to growth ... people still say, 'yes, but there is the case before the TSE'. It tends to create instability.
However, Gilmar Mendes, a supreme court justice who also heads the electoral tribunal, dismissed on Monday appeals from politicians for the court to step in to remedy the nation's ills.
It is not up to the TSE to resolve this political crisis, and it is good that is made clear, Mendes said. The court is not an instrument for solving political crises. This ruling with be legal and judicial..