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Temer faces uncertain two years at the top in Brazil

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By Robert Hackwill
Temer faces uncertain two years at the top in Brazil

Michel Temer appeared to be the main winner in the first round of the Brazilian crisis that has shaken the country since December, but it could be a short-term triumph as his own weaknesses could trip him up.

On the surface discreet and inoffensive the centrist former vice-president to Dilma Roussef is today as unpopular as the rival whose fall he precipitated.

He had supported the Workers’ Party candidate in two successive presidential elections, and underlined that by ensuring his PMBD party, the biggest in Brazil, would deliver support in Congress.

But it would only be until he felt the moment was right for him to withdraw his and his party’s support from a president whose popularity was in free-fall.

Temer entered politics in the 1960s. The son of Lebanese immigrants favoured mode of operation was in the shadows, behind-the-scenes stitching together of alliances within his own PMBD party while happy to support presidential candidates from other formations.

Now it is Temer himself in charge, at least until the end of 2018 and despite the fact he says he will not seek another mandate his party says he will.

“We are inaugurating a new phase, a phase where we have a horizon of two years and four months, the rest of the term Rousseff had. Two years and four months that from today on, the expectations are much higher for the government,” insists Temer.

The new president must reconcile a divided society, part of which considers his presidency as illegitimate, and sort out the misfiring economy. His plans for this, including austerity and pension and social security reforms are likely to anger a large swathe of the electorate, a group already hard hit by rising unemployment and inflation.

Until now Temer has managed to hold his anti-Roussef coalition together, but now she is gone at least one member, the rival centre-right PSDB, will campaign hard in 2018 for its candidate to win even if Temer stands, and when he does electors may remember his party has presented no-one for the job since 1994.

The second great danger for the new president is the Petrobras corruption scandal which is undermining his party particularly badly, one of the reasons Brazilian electors are so disillusioned with their politicians.