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LATIN AMERICA | 28-09-2017 12:38

Brazil President Michel Temer's approval rating slumps to staggering 3% in poll

Already dismal popularity of PMDB leader has sunk even further to a new historic low, making him the most unpopular president on record.

A new poll in Brazil says embattled President Michel Temer's already dismal approval rating has sunk even further to a new historic low.

Just three percent of respondents in the Ibope Institute survey – conducted for the National Confederation of Industries (CNI) – approve of Temer’s administration, while 77 percent disapprove. The rest rate his performance as average. In a previous poll from July, 5 percent approved while 70 percent disapproved.

A staggering 92 percent of those questioned said they do not trust the president.

The latest survey is based on 2,000 face-to-face interviews conducted September 15-20, as Brazil's top prosecutor charged Temer and key allies with leading a criminal organisation. Temer was also accused of obstruction of justice.

He has denied wrongdoing, calling the indictment “filled with absurdities.”

Thursday's poll had a margin of error of two percentage points.

The news is particularly embarrassing for Temer as no president has had a lower rating since Brazil's return to democracy in 1985. Since replacing impeached former resident Dilma Rousseff as head of state in May 2016, he has failed to push his approval rating above 14 percent.

Graft charges. Brazil’s lower house of Congress began to analyse graft charges against Temer on Tuesday, a process that analysts believe will see him able to escape trial.

In a first step expected to take several hours, the charges of racketeering and obstruction of justice were being read out to the lower chamber by congressional deputy Mariana Carvalho.

Next, the charges will be debated and voted on by the lower house justice committee, something that could take two to three weeks, a spokesman for the chamber said.

The committee's recommendation would then go to the full house, where 342 of 513 deputies would have to vote against Temer for him to be put on trial in the Supreme Court. Any less and the charges would be thrown out as long as he remains in office.

Temer already defeated a first charge of bribe-taking when the lower house overwhelmingly voted against a trial in August. Analysts say he now has at least a strong majority to combat the new charges.

However, the scandal has weakened Temer's ability to pass tough austerity reforms, particularly a tightening of the country's generous pension system.

"Brazilian society is suffering from this, with a president involved in several trials," Carvalho, the deputy tasked with reading out the charges, said.

The latest charges involve Temer's alleged agreement to pay hush money to keep a jailed politician from testifying and his leadership of a group in Congress that took millions of dollars in bribes from companies seeking state contracts.

According to the charges, Temer "acted as leader of a criminal organisation" comprising senior officials from his PMDB party. They allegedly took the kickbacks in exchange for contracts at public companies like oil giant Petrobras.

- Times with AP/AFP

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