The Supreme Court of Brazil approved the continuation of a Senate probe into President Jair Bolsonaro’s handling of the pandemic, one of two cases it examined that could threaten the leader’s re-election campaign next year.
The court began considering former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s political future, as a potentially powerful competitor to Bolsonaro.
One of the judges had previously found that he had been wrongfully convicted of a corruption lawsuit, effectively restoring his eligibility to run for president.
The court voted 10-1 to uphold Justice Luis Roberto Barroso’s request to direct the Senate to proceed with an investigation into Bolsonaro’s handling of the crisis after a sufficient number of senators had signed a petition to that effect.
The Senate president had attempted to postpone the investigation by citing pandemic health concerns.
Bolsonaro and his supporters say he is being falsely blamed for the rise in COVID-19 deaths in Brazil, which is second only to the United States. On Monday, Brazil’s seven-day average death toll set a new high.
Sen. Márcio Bittar, a Bolsonaro ally, said in a Twitter post that the Senate investigation is an “attempt at a political coup against the president.”
Carlos Melo, a political science professor at Insper University in Sao Paulo. believes that the investigation process is risky for Bolsonaro.
Melo stated, “The desperation with the pandemic tends to increase as deaths continue to grow. Economic issues are also far from being solved. And at the same time, his administration is fighting with its base in congress over next year’s budget,”. He added, “The surroundings of the inquiry don’t favor Bolsonaro,”
Despite the fact that more than the requisite 27 senators had signed a motion for an investigation, Senate President Rodrigo Pacheco had earlier declined to approve it, citing health issues in the midst of the pandemic.