Temer’s Brazil Presidency Begins With Ally Dissent in Senate

  • Senate leniency for Rousseff said to take Temer by surprise
  • Rousseff won’t be banned from holding office for eight years

Brazil’s Michel Temer was taken by surprise in a Senate vote on Wednesday that spared impeached President Dilma Rousseff from a ban on holding public office for eight years, according to a close aide.

Temer found out Tuesday night that Rousseff’s allies were pushing a proposal to hold a separate vote on Rousseff’s political future. He was surprised when Senate president Renan Calheiros, a fellow party member, declared his vote in favor of lightening Rousseff’s sentence.

Temer was concerned with the move, the aide said, because it gives the impression that his oft-lauded negotiating skills with Congress faltered. In what was supposed to be a complete political victory, it casts doubt on Temer’s ability to rally support in Congress for votes on economic measures he says are necessary to control Brazil’s budget deficit and spur growth.

The unexpected leniency toward Rousseff creates a precedent that could work in favor of legislators who are under investigation for various crimes and could have their mandates terminated, the aide said. Eduardo Cunha, the former speaker of the house who is also from Temer’s PMDB party, faces a trial in Congress next month to end his term as deputy due to corruption allegations.

The vote to allow Rousseff to hold public office was the main surprise in today’s conclusion of the nearly nine-month impeachment process, according to a report from Eurasia Group. However, threats from allied parties to leave the ruling coalition because of a perceived leniency deal are “not very credible at this time.”

“Coalition management will be prone to friction in the coming months,” the report said. “But there is more smoke than fire here.”

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