Opinion, by Michael Royster
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – On Wednesday, as expected, the federal Chamber of Deputies voted to suspend any criminal proceedings against Temer before the STF. The vote was closer than the previous one held in August, but blocking prosecution still won the day.
The vote was open, not secret, and every legislator in the Chamber had to come to the microphone and state whether they supported the report exempting Temer from prosecution. The final tally was 251 pro-Temer, 233 anti-Temer, two abstentions and 25 absentees.
Temer’s margin was considerably less than what it was in the first vote back in August (263 to 227). It was also fewer votes than the pro-Temer wing had projected (270). In the end, of course, it didn’t matter, because the anti-Temer politicians had to obtain 342 votes out of 513 in order to oust him.
What were the reasons given by those who said they were in favor of Temer? One quite popular was blatantly political: “as determined by my party, I vote “yes”. In other words, my own personal opinion does not count. The most repeated reason, however, was “to ensure stability, to permit the economy to grow and to enact the reforms needed in Brazil.”
Both of these justifications come from political parties that are beholden to Temer, either because the parties have lucrative cabinet positions, or because their own pet projects have been given the go-ahead by President Temer in the negotiations leading up to the vote.
For instance, reducing the size of the national forest preserves; for instance, reducing by half the fines imposed by environmental agencies; for instance, the regulation making it next to impossible to bring charges of slave labor; for instance, the newly “flexibilized” labor law; for instance, the watering down of the social security reform; for instance, the watering down of most austerity measures announced by Temer’s finance minister.
What the “yes” voters wanted was to continue under President Temer, in spite of the fact that 97 percent of the Brazilian population want Temer out of office, because with Temer in office, the legislators can continue to pressure him for more largesse.
Or, put another way, the “yes men” have adhered to the time-(dis)honored adage: “rouba mas faz”.
Sure, the argument goes, Temer steals, everybody knows that, but he gets things done, mostly things that we want done. Hence, in the interest of “stability of government” we must overlook his “peccadillos” and get on with the job of running the country the way it’s always been done—by hook or by crook.
The practice of Presidents courting legislators to promote economic and social projects they deem important, happens in all countries — it’s a normal part of the political give and take.
What is different now is that, twice, President Temer has had to offer legislators things they want for their personal gain, even things different from what Temer himself wants, just for Temer to maintain himself in office.
That, as the Curmudgeon has had occasion to remark in the past, is shameful.