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By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter

SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – In a surprising move, Brazil Supreme Court reinstated Senator Renan Calheiros as President of the Senate on Wednesday December 7th, overturning a decision made by Justice Marco Aurelio de Melo two days earlier, on Monday December 5th. The Court, however, withdrew him from the Presidential succession line.

Brazil, Brasilia,Supreme Court Justices vote on whether to allow Renan Calheiros to maintain Speaker seat at Senate,
Supreme Court Justices vote on whether to allow Renan Calheiros to maintain Speaker seat at Senate, photo by Jose Cruz/Agencia Brasil.

The original request made by the political party Rede Sustentabilidade (Sustainable Network) argued that Calheiros was indicted on charges of embezzlement and could not, as Senate President, be in line for the President’s position.

On Wednesday, however, with a vote of six votes against and three votes for the removal of Calheiros as the Speaker of the Upper House, Justices argued that the chances of Calheiros having to take over as President was very low.

“There is no indication that the President of the Republic will be replaced by the Senate president in the near future,” said Supreme Court Justice Ricardo Lewandowski before voting to maintain Calheiros as Senate President, but also voting for his removal from the line of succession.

Calheiros, who spent almost two days refusing to sign papers informing him of the suspension, appeared pleased as he left Congress on Wednesday after the High Court’s decision.

“It is with humility that the Federal Senate receives and applauds the patriotic decision of the Federal Supreme Court. Confidence in Brazilian Justice and separation of powers remains unstoppable,” said the senator in a statement.

Political analysts say members of the Administration are also pleased with the decision, seeing Senator Calheiros as an ally to approve much-needed austerity measures in the Senate.

“Democracy has been strengthened, the Supreme [Court] has spoken, we respect [the decision] and, now we will vote [on the bills]”, said government leader at the Senate, Romero Jucá.

Opposition representatives, however, see the Court’s decision as an ‘agreement’ to quickly approve the spending cap bill, PEC 55, in the Senate.

“It was shameful, a big accord because of PEC 55. Everyone got together, the media, the financial market, that said stock markets were going to fall, to blackmail Supreme Court Justices,” claims Senate minority leader, Lindbergh Farias. “They want to vote for PEC 55 no matter what it takes,” concluded the senator.

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