Brazil’s Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that Eduardo Cunha, the powerful lawmaker who orchestrated the effort to impeach President Dilma Rousseff, must step down because he is facing a corruption trial.
The decision added to the political turmoil in Brazil, a country deeply divided over its scandal-plagued leaders. Just this week, Vice President Michel Temer, the man preparing to take over the president’s office from Ms. Rousseff, was ordered to pay a fine for violating campaign financing limits.
The twin decisions are not expected to save Ms. Rousseff’s presidency. Support for her ouster remains strong in the Senate, which is preparing to vote next week on whether to remove her from office and put her on trial over claims of budgetary manipulation.
Still, the decisions tarnish the men in line to take over from her. Despite his conviction, Mr. Temer is still expected to become president if Ms. Rousseff is removed by the Senate. Yet the ruling could make him ineligible to run for elected office for eight years, creating an unusual situation in which a politician who may be barred from campaigning ends up running the country.
On Thursday, a Supreme Court justice, Teori Zavascki, ruled against Mr. Temer’s powerful ally, Mr. Cunha. As the speaker of the lower house of Congress who oversaw the vote in April to impeach Ms. Rousseff in the Chamber of Deputies, Mr. Cunha had adroitly fended off charges of taking as much as $40 million in bribes.
Scholars and political analysts described the initial ruling by Justice Zavascki, which the 11-member court later endorsed, as reflecting the capacity for Brazil’s legal system to curb abuses of power. Joaquim Barbosa, a former chief justice of the Supreme Court, called the move “extraordinary and courageous.”
The ruling to remove Mr. Cunha, an evangelical Christian radio commentator, sidelines a top political opponent of Ms. Rousseff after much of his role in impeachment process had been completed. The impeachment decision is now in the hands of the Senate, which is expected to vote against the president on May 11.