Brazil’s president faces key congressional vote

For Brazilian leaders, August is the cruelest month — and one that now presents a potentially fatal challenge to the presidency of Michel Temer.

In modern times, August has been a devastating month for Brazilian presidents, 31 days in which they have been impeached or resigned. One even committed suicide. Temer’s own predecessor, President Dilma Rousseff, was removed last Aug. 31 for breaking fiscal rules in her management of the budget.

Temer is facing his own August showdown — a vote in Congress’ lower house Wednesday on whether he should be suspended and put on trial over a bribery charge filed against him by Brazil’s attorney general.

Opposition lawmakers feel confident about adding Temer to the list of August casualties, either this week with the bribery charge vote or in a likely obstruction of justice accusation that Attorney General Rodrigo Janot could bring before the end of the month. The latter would bring its own vote by the Chamber of Deputies.

“Even if he wins now (Wednesday) it won’t be over,” said Claudio Couto, a political science professor at Fundacao Getulio Vargas, a Sao Paulo-based university and think tank.

Couto said Temer has been using much of his political capital to curry support ahead of Wednesday’s vote, including the promising of billions of dollars in earmarked appropriations for many legislators at a time the country is struggling to emerge from its worst recession in decades.

Temer is accused of receiving bribes indirectly, via a confidant who was caught by police carrying a suitcase with about $150,000 in cash. The case erupted in May when a recording emerged in which Temer apparently tells a meat-packing company executive to keep up paying of hush money to former Chamber of Deputies Speaker Eduardo Cunha, who is serving a 15-year sentence for corruption.

Temer has denied wrongdoing and he adamantly rejected calls for him to resign from across the political spectrum.

Until a few weeks ago, the president appeared to have an ample margin of support among the 513 members of the Chamber of Deputies.

Chamber Speaker Rodrigo Maia, an ally of the president, has said that for much of July, he was confident that Temer would have “a comfortable win” in the vote by the house, where the governing coalition has remained strong enough on some issues to pass legislation. But as August approached, news got worse for the president. Last week, an Ibope institute opinion poll said just 5 percent of Brazilians surveyed…

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