Sat | Jan 20, 2018

Michel Temer inherits presidency on shaky ground

Published:Friday | September 2, 2016 | 12:00 AM
Brazil’s President Michel Temer gives the thumbs up before taking the presidential oath at the National Congress, in Brasilia, Brazil.


The permanent ouster of deeply unpopular President Dilma Rousseff by Brazil's Senate means that a man who is arguably just as unpopular is now faced with trying to ease the wounds of a divided nation mired in recession.

Long known as an uncharismatic backroom wheeler-dealer, Michel Temer inherits a shrinking economy, a Zika virus outbreak that has ravaged poor north-eastern states, and political instability fed by a sprawling corruption probe that has tarred much of the country's political and business elite - himself included.

So far he has struggled in the nearly four months he has served as interim president following Rousseff's May impeachment, which suspended her from office while a final trial was prepared. The Senate's 61-20 vote on Wednesday to permanently remove her means that Temer, who had been her vice-president, will now serve out her term, which ends in late 2018.

Just hours after Rousseff was removed, Temer assured the nation that his administration was up to the task.

"From today on, the expectations are much higher for the government. I hope that in these two years and four months, we do what we have declared - put Brazil back on track," he said.




Temer said he planned to attend the G20 meetings in China this weekend, mentioning bilateral meetings that leaders from Spain, Japan, Italy and Saudi Arabia have already requested.

"We are travelling to show the world that we have political and legal stability," he said. "We have to show that there is hope in the country."

Whether Temer can convince Brazilians that he is worth a real shot is unclear.

He appeared tone-deaf with his first move in May: appointing an entirely white, male Cabinet to oversee a nation of 200 million people where more than 50 per cent identify as black or mixed race.

Government ministers are promising progress now that "interim" is no longer part of Temer's title.

"With the end of the interim period and a vote of more than 60 senators, the investors will start bringing jobs again," said Cabinet chief Eliseu Padilha.

So far, that message has not resonated with most Brazilians. Just 14 per cent said they approved of Temer's performance in a July poll by Datafolha. On the flip side, 62 per cent said they wanted new elections to resolve the crisis. The poll interviewed 2,792 people between July 14 and 15 and had a two percentage point margin of error.

New elections would first require that Temer resign, which he has no intention of doing.