BRASILIA, Aug 11 (Reuters) - Vice President Michel Temer is increasingly seen as the man who could lead Brazil out of political crisis if President Dilma Rousseff is forced from office, but people who know him say he will do all he can to see her serve out her term.
Even members of Temer’s PMDB party who want Rousseff to step down say Temer, a seasoned politician and discreet, soft-spoken constitutional law expert, will hold the fort for Rousseff as long as long as he can.
They doubt, though, that he can do much to save her if the current pro-impeachment drumbeat results in a trial in Congress.
“He is anguished. He wants the best for the country, but he constantly repeats that he respects the constitution and will use all his strength to help her finish her term,” PMDB lawmaker Darcisio Perondi, a friend of Temer‘s, said in an interview.
Opinion polls show seven out of 10 Brazilians want to see Rousseff impeached for running Latin America’s largest economy into the ground and not preventing a massive corruption scandal at state-run oil company Petrobras.
With no evidence that she benefited from the bribery scheme, or even knew of it, her opponents may have a better chance of impeaching Rousseff for allegedly doctoring government accounts last year to allow more state spending in the run-up to her re-election.
Her fiercest adversaries are waiting for an audit court ruling as grounds for impeachment. They would need two thirds of the votes in the Chamber of Deputies to begin proceedings.
Support has clearly grown in recent weeks but it is not clear whether there are enough votes for an impeachment trial, which would be held in the Senate and require another two-thirds majority to vote Rousseff out of office.
Temer, 75, would take over as acting president during the impeachment and be confirmed if Rousseff is voted out.
Temer is Rousseff’s main political liaison with Congress and his support strengthens her defenses but he may not be able to control members of his party in Congress who want to impeach her.
Perondi said Temer will have a “Herculean” task mustering support for her inside the rebellious governing coalition.
“The majority of the party wants her gone. She is totally discredited and the economic, moral and political crisis is so deep,” said Perondi, the PMDB’s deputy leader in the lower chamber, who believes the best solution is for Rousseff to resign.
‘NO PLAN B’
Rousseff says she has no intention of resigning because she was democratically elected. “I can resist threats ... No one will take away the legitimacy I won at the ballot box,” she said in a speech on Friday.
Brazil’s main opposition party, the PSDB, which narrowly lost to Rousseff in October, is divided over impeachment because it would make Temer president and likely enhance the PMDB’s chances of winning the next elections in 2018.
Younger PSDB leaders close to former presidential candidate Aecio Neves are seeking the annulment of October’s election, alleging the Rousseff-Temer campaign received funding from bribe money. Some senior party leaders prefer to see the PMDB worn down by Brazil’s economic downturn, believing it will ensure a PSDB victory in 2018.
Rousseff’s loss of control over her coalition became patent last week when two parties defected and the lower chamber almost unanimously passed a spending bill that undermines flailing efforts by Finance Minister Joaquim Levy to reduce Brazil’s fiscal deficit. Most lawmakers from her own Workers’ Party voted against the government.
A tense statement the following day by Temer saying Brazil needed “someone” to unite the country raised speculation that he was putting himself forward as that leader. Annoyed Workers’ Party officials suspected Temer was plotting against Rousseff, and the president called him in for an explanation.
People close to Temer say he is fully dedicated to ensuring Rousseff’s government succeeds in balancing fiscal accounts to save Brazil’s investment grade credit rating, restore growth and revert a slide towards the worst recession in 25 years.
“There is no Plan B. Only Plan D, for Dilma,” said one Temer aide, who asked not to be named.
Many in Brazil’s business community wish there was a Plan B.
The two largest industry lobbies, Sao Paulo’s FIESP and Rio de Janeiro’s Firjan, endorsed Temer’s call for national unity last week, signaling they would back him as president if Rousseff is forced out.
While Temer opposes impeachment, aides say he would step in and run the country if she is forced out.
“If Temer becomes president, business confidence will be restored, investors will be back and the government relations with Congress will be good again, because he is well respected,” Perondi said. “He is the constitutional alternative.” (Additional reporting by Silvio Cascione; Editing by Christian Plumb and Kieran Murray)