The latest twist in Brazil’s political nightmare will mark the second time in a year that lawmakers vote on whether to remove a president.
But if more than a third of lawmakers vote to reject the charges – which political insiders regard as increasingly likely – Temer’s troubled administration could survive until presidential elections in 2018. And the persistent pall of corruption that hangs over Brazil’s political leaders will linger on.
Temer, who took over from the Workers’ party president Dilma Rousseff after her impeachment, is accused of corruption after a close aide was given $150,000 in cash – part of $12m in bribes prosecutors allege he and the aide were due to receive after intervening in a business deal.
“The accusation was very strong, the facts speak for themselves,” said Carlos Lima, a leading prosecutor in Operation Car Wash, the far-reaching corruption investigation that has shaken Brazil’s political and business classes.
Rousseff denounced her impeachment as a coup and accused Temer, her former vice-president, of conspiring to usurp her. Since taking over he has been hit by one scandal after another. And with his 5% approval rating even lower than Rousseff’s was, Brazilians are wondering whether his government is even more compromised than the one it forced out.
But there is little appetite for a fresh round of street protests like those which helped drive Rousseff from power, said Maurício Santoro, a professor of international relations and political scientist at the State University of Rio de Janeiro.
“What people hoped for was something very different,” he said. “There is a certain apathy in the Brazilian population and this is benefitting Temer. He would be in much more difficulty if he was facing big demonstrations.”
Since the Operation Car Wash investigation began unpeeling a multibillion-dollar graft scheme at the state-run oil company Petrobras in 2014, a long list of executives, middlemen and politicians from Rousseff’s Workers’ party and its congressional allies have been jailed.