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Knives are out for Brazilian president

By AFP | 2017-08-03 11:27:40.0

Michel Temer is the ultimate political kingmaker who rose unexpectedly to take Brazil's presidency himself but now faces a vote by lawmakers on whether he should be tried for corruption.

Known in his long career as a backroom dealer, the 76-year-old head of the powerful, opportunistic PMDB party has been playing the longest of games. It's a game the son of Lebanese immigrants with a penchant for poetry seemed to have won until a few months ago.

First came accusations of obstruction of justice in May and the opening of a probe that could see him stripped of office.

Then in June the country's highest election court debated on national television whether bribes and undeclared donations had invalidated Temer's entire mandate. A narrow not-guilty verdict by the court's seven judges saved Temer from immediate disaster - but not embarrassment.

Now, Temer stands accused of taking bribes from a meat- packing industry executive, part of a wider scandal sucking in major politicians of every stripe. If two-thirds of deputies in the lower house of Congress accept the charge, Temer will be suspended for 180 days and go on trial at the Supreme Court. Analysts say he has enough support to survive the vote.

This all sounds familiar: a Brazilian president fighting to keep his or her job.

A year ago it was leftist president Dilma Rousseff who was being hounded from office for the relatively technical crime of breaking accounting rules. Temer, her conservative vice-president in a prickly coalition, took over and promised to put Latin America's biggest country back on track.

That rise to power fits Temer's style perfectly.

Never popular or keen on electoral politics, he originally got the vice-presidency thanks to his ability to bring Rousseff's Workers' Party the support of the centrist PMDB.

Rousseff was a former communist guerrilla and Brazil's first female president, while Temer was the epitome of Brazil's deeply established white male elite. The two made an odd fit.

When Rousseff's enemies began circling ahead of her impeachment last year, Temer publicly stayed clear. However, he worked behind the scenes against Rousseff with his ally in the PMDB, the lower house Speaker and consummate political operator, Eduardo Cunha.

Cunha steered the impeachment procedure and Temer, rising to the top job without having to go to the polls, benefit ed most.

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