Brazil's Temer avoids graft charge after lawmakers defeat motion

People attend a protest against Brazil's President MichelTemer in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on May 28, 2017.
People attend a protest against Brazil's President MichelTemer in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on May 28, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

BRASILIA, Brazil (Reuters) - Brazil's Lower House of Congress voted on Wednesday (Aug 2) to reject a corruption charge against President Michel Temer for allegedly taking bribes, saving him from a possible Supreme Court trial that could have ousted him from office.

Mr Temer won enough ballots to keep the opposition from gaining the two-thirds of the vote required to move the corruption case forward to the top court.

The strong show of support for Mr Temer raised the prospects that he can now move ahead with reform of Brazil's pension system that is crucial to plug a wide budget deficit and revive investor confidence in an economy emerging from recession.

But Mr Temer is widely expected to face more corruption charges in the coming weeks, which would again put his presidency at stake.

Opposition lawmakers, carrying briefcases stuffed with fake money, chanted "Out with Temer!" on the House floor at the start of the day-long tumultuous session.

Mr Temer's main coalition ally, the Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB), which seeks to win the presidential election next year, was split on whether to back Mr Temer, whose economic policies it shares, or distance itself from his corruption-plagued government.

PSDB leader Ricardo Tripoli, calling for the charge to be approved, said Mr Temer must be investigated, "not because we want to oust the president, but because Brazilians are tired of so much suspicion surrounding their politicians."

To shield Mr Temer only further undermines the credibility of Brazil's political system, Mr Tripoli said.

Brazil's stocks and currency rose earlier on Wednesday after a cloture vote signalled a victory for Mr Temer and robust support for his reform agenda to cut spending and restore confidence in government accounts.

Brazil's top prosecutor Rodrigo Janot in June charged Mr Temer with arranging to eventually receive a total of 38 million reais (S$16.56 million) in bribes from the world's largest meatpacker, JBS SA, in return for political favours.

Mr Temer and his legal team have denied any wrongdoing.

His supporters have said that Mr Janot failed to provide proof that he had broken the law.