With Temer’s Travel, Brazil Gets Third President in Three Weeks

  • Michel Temer heads to G-20 in Germany amid political crisis
  • Senate chief takes over country’s presidency for 2 days

Brazilian President Michel Temer attends an event in Brasilia on July 6, 2017.

Photographer: SERGIO LIMA/AFP/Getty Images

Brazil’s third unelected president in three weeks has taken the reins of the Latin American giant in an interim capacity as both the president and the house speaker have left the country in the middle of an unpredictable political crisis.

Eunicio Oliveira, the president of the Senate, is standing in from Thursday afternoon until Saturday as head of state after President Michel Temer flew to the G-20 summit in Germany and house speaker Rodrigo Maia went to Argentina. Under Brazilian law, the president delegates his powers on leaving the country, with the vice president next in the line of succession, followed by the head of the lower house, then the Senate chief. Brazil has no vice president at the moment.

Initially, Temer had planned to skip the G-20, as storm clouds gather over his mandate. He changed his mind this week and said he would go to the meeting to "defend the interests of the country". 

Over the past few days the president has held face-to-face meetings with dozens of lawmakers in order to shore up support to block a trial on corruption charges at the Supreme Court. At the same time, pressure on Maia to make a bid for the presidency has increased with some legislators urging him to abandon Temer, according to a deputy close to the discussions who spoke on condition of anonymity. The house speaker has denied to local media any ambition to take over. Maia is the next in line should Temer leave office before the end of his mandate in January 2018.

Temer headed to the summit in Hamburg a day after his lawyer handed over to the lower house’s Constitution and Justice Committee, or CCJ, written arguments defending the president from a charge of bribe-taking. If two-thirds of the lower house agree to proceed with the case, Temer will have to stand down while he is tried by the Supreme Court.

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"At the moment it’s a vote by vote battle," said Luis Antonio Covatti, a lawmaker from the government-allied Partido Progressista. "I think he’ll get it, but the base is diminishing."

Temer’s bargaining has drawn criticism from opposition lawmakers, including Sergio Olimpio Gomes, a deputy from Solidariedade, who argues the president is selling out the country in his bid to stay in power. Freeing up to 4 billion reais ($1.2 billion) in election campaign funds is one of the topics under discussion in talks between Temer and legislators, according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity.

"This swapping of favors, this tit for tat, this business of the president meeting 16 lawmakers in one day, is something rotten," Olimpio Gomes said. "This smells rotten to people."

The latest Datafolha opinion poll shows Temer has an approval rating of just seven percent, the lowest level in 28 years, and lower than Dilma Rousseff’s rating shortly before she was impeached.

Tidying Shop

Ahead of his trip to Europe, Temer arranged a last-minute late-night meeting on Wednesday and requested a show of support from his ministers, according to a presidential aide. The last time Temer traveled abroad, the government suffered an unexpected defeat in a Senate committee vote on its key labor reform bill.

Meanwhile, house speaker Maia, who stood in for Temer last month on his trip to Russia and Norway, is set to meet Argentine lawmakers on Friday. This is the first time in Temer’s tenure that Maia has been out of the country at the same time as the president.

— With assistance by Gabriel Shinohara, and Rachel Gamarski

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