With suspension of Brazil’s first woman President Dilma Rousseff on Thursday, a curtain will be rolled down on 13 years of leftist rule over Latin America’s biggest nation. Throughout these years, Brazil’s economy improved but nosedived in the last two years.
Rousseff was suspended by the Senate for up to 180 days pending an
impeachment trial on charges of hiding budget shortfalls.
Reeling under two years of recession, Brazilians are now hoping for opening of a new page that will see their country move on from a months-long battle over Rousseff’s impeachment, which distracted their political leaders from
addressing the worst recession in decades.
With backing of business sector, Brazil’s interim president Michel Temer, will trudge to bring the country back on its economic growth track. Yet, there are fears that the same stumbling blocks are awaiting Temer who had been rowing the same boat with Rousseff for years. A 75-year-old veteran of the center-right, Temer is just about as unpopular as Rousseff, the leftist leader he served as vice president in an awkward, ultimately aborted alliance.
Kingmaker, Temer, who has spent his career in the wings of power but never at center stage, will also face some new challenges of his own. He has to take the bull by its horns. While Rousseff’s approval rating has tumbled below 10%, Temer would receive just 1 to 2% of the vote in presidential elections, according to a recent poll.
Lacking charisma of Rousseff and former president Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva, Temer, son of Lebanese migrants, may face an uphill task to heal the wounds of the impeachment battle and restore faith in a political system many Brazilians see as hopelessly corrupt. He has to present himself as a new man with no
relation to the defunct leadership to turn things around in Brazil.
But one of the biggest obstacles Temer will face is Rousseff herself. Venting her anger on Temer, she described him as the “coup-monger in chief”. She will fight back fiercely to derail whatever Temer stands for. This can be the worst nightmare for the top Latin America economy, which should limp back from the current recession to restore its economic role.
Brazil is in the middle of its second year of recession and is not forecast to return to growth until 2018, the time for a presidential election.
To turn things around, Temer has proposed a “bridge to the future” that includes spending cuts and free-market reforms. This will be attainable when he succeeds to heal the political wounds created by the political wrangling.
Indeed, there is one way the Temer administration could take to handle the crisis: a competent team that can revive the tanking economy.
The new government may be aided by business world that looks forward to more market-friendly government after years of left-leaning policy and ballooning deficits.
Like Rousseff’s party, Temer’s party, the PMDB, has been in the centre of corruption investigation, which uncovered a multi-billion-dollar bribery and kickbacks scheme centered on state oil company Petrobras. This investigation, dubbed Operation Car Wash (Lava Jato), was the main rallying cry for the movement to oust Rousseff – although she has not been implicated herself. So Temer is not absolutely safe as he may drink from the same cup. Both Rousseff and Temer are not under investigation but their parties are involved in the alleged corruption.
The new interim president has also been found guilty of campaign finance irregularities and could be banned from seeking elected office for eight years.
It is a responsibility of political and business elite in Brazil to boost confidence in a country battered by unemployment and nearly double-digit inflation.