Brazil’s Temer Secures Allies to Head Both Houses of Congress

  • Lower house re-elects Maia in first round vote on Thursday
  • President Temer to push pension, labor reforms in Congress

Brazil’s President Michel Temer secured crucial support for his reform agenda after lawmakers elected government allies to head both houses of Congress.

Incumbent lower house speaker Rodrigo Maia, seen as Temer’s favorite, was re-elected in a first round vote on Thursday with backing from 293 lawmakers, while Senator Eunicio Oliveira, from the ruling Brazilian Democratic Movement Party, was chosen as Senate President last night. They will set the voting agenda of both houses, which makes them critical for the progress of reforms.

The government’s main challenge this year is to obtain congressional approval for highly-controversial proposals to cap pension benefits and deregulate the labor market. Temer has also pledged to simplify the tax system and make Brazil’s democracy more representative.

Both lawmakers have already expressed support for Temer’s reform drive. In a January interview, Oliveira said he expects senators to approve the pension reform during the first half of the year.

Maia expressed support for both the labor and pension reforms in a televised interview after his victory, but added that their approval would be difficult. "We need a reformist chamber," he said. "We need to reorganize the Brazilian state."

Corruption Allegations

The lower house speaker is also second in the line of succession, as Brazil currently has no vice president. A Supreme Court judge on Wednesday rejected a request to suspend Maia’s candidacy on the grounds that internal house rules prevent re-election. Maia argued he was only serving out the final six months of the mandate of previous speaker Eduardo Cunha, who was stripped of his mandate and arrested during a massive corruption investigation involving the state-controlled oil company, Petrobras.

Both Maia and Oliveira will also have to contend with allegations related to the same probe, known as Carwash. Numerous legislators are under investigation and many have been cited in plea bargains from executives at construction companies for allegedly taking bribes and illegal campaign financing, according to information leaked to the local press.

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