Brazilian president Michel Temer declared that “truth had won” on Thursday, the morning after he survived a key vote on whether he should be tried on corruption charges, mustering support in the lower house of Congress despite abysmal approval ratings.
“Brazil is always stronger than any challenge and it is even stronger now that its institutions have been put to the test in such dramatic fashion these last months,” Temer said in a video message.
The first sitting president in Brazil to face criminal charges, Temer survived a similar vote in August on a separate bribery charge. To avoid being suspended and put on trial for charges of racketeering, obstruction of justice and leading a criminal organisation this time out, the president needed the support of at least a third of the 513 deputies in the Chamber of Deputies. He reached the threshold of 171 about two hours into the voting. The final tally was 251 in support of Temer and 233 against. The rest were abstentions and absences. “This accusation is fragile, inept and worse than the first one,” legislator Celso Russomanno said while voting in favour of the president.
The opposition, which spent much of the day manoeuvring to postpone the vote, criticised Temer. “I vote with more than 90 percent of Brazilians who have already convicted Temer’s corrupted administration,” said lawmaker Luiza Erundina.
While it was a clear win for Temer, the president has become so weakened by repeated scandals that it remains to be seen whether he can muster support for key reforms. Temer took over last year after Dilma Rousseff was impeached and removed from office. His term goes until 31 December 2018. Many feel the administration lacks legitimacy because of how Temer came to power. His approval rating is about three percent, according to recent polls. The 77-year-old spent recent weeks shoring up his support, doling out local projects, plum positions and favourable decrees. In the end, he didn’t get as much support as he did in August, when 263 voted in his favour and 227 opposed.
In both votes, the number of supporters came well below the 308 votes, or three-fifths of the chamber, he would need to pass major reforms such as a proposed overhaul of the pension system. Congressman Alessandro Molon, who voted against Temer, summed up the predictions of many political observers after the vote. “We are going to be stuck with a lame duck president for one more year,” Molon said. The charges against him stem from a mammoth corruption investigation that began as an investigation into money-laundering and ended up uncovering systemic graft. Dozens of politicians and businessmen have been jailed as a result.