Brazil's Biggest Political Party Gives Embattled Rousseff Relief

  • "There will be no break with the government" -- Eliseu Padilha
  • PMDB plan to focus on economic recovery, vice president says

Leaders of Brazil’s biggest political party pledged to back some of President Dilma Rousseff’s measures to bolster fiscal accounts and revive the economy as she tries to shore up support in Congress.

Senior leaders of the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party held a meeting in Brasilia on Tuesday, where they proposed structural reforms that would help the Rousseff administration meet its goals to cut expenses and reverse a budget deficit. The party, known as the PMDB, is a member of the ruling coalition.

The alliance between the PMDB and Rousseff’s Workers’ Party has not been productive this year. Eduardo Cunha, a prominent figure within PMDB and president of the lower house, has led some of the government’s biggest legislative defeats in 2015 and in July said he would oppose Rousseff. PMDB leaders said Tuesday they’re not following his example, for now.

"There will be no break with the government," said party member and Rousseff’s civil aviation minister, Eliseu Padilha. "It’s not the right moment."

The PMDB’s momentary commitment to Rousseff’s government shows how she has managed to limp through the first year of her second term, fending off calls for impeachment and using political appointments to coax her allies to cooperate. She gave the party control of more ministries in a Cabinet shuffle in early October.

Budget Victory

With the help of PMDB lawmakers, Rousseff last week won her first major budget victory in months when the lower house passed government legislation that may boost fiscal revenue. The bill, which provides incentives for Brazilians to repatriate fortunes, now goes before the Senate.

A few of the PMDB proposals presented Tuesday overlap with measures recommended by the government, such as reforming social security and attracting investors to participate in infrastructure concessions. Rousseff’s Vice President Michel Temer, the head of the PMDB, said his party’s plan is designed to revive the economy and could boost cooperation with the administration.

Other PMDB priorities, including changes that may reduce state-run oil company Petrobras’s stake in deepwater projects, are a direct challenge to the ideology of Rousseff’s party, known as the PT. The PMDB on Tuesday reiterated promises to oppose the PT in 2018 and run its own presidential candidate.

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