RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Brazilian President Michel Temer faces a growing risk of not finishing his term after the emergence of an audio recording that appears to capture him endorsing hush money for a convicted former lawmaker. Many Brazilians are starting to think about who might replace him.
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If Temer resigns or is forced out, the speaker of the lower Chamber of Deputies would be interim president for up to 30 days until Congress votes on who would finish Temer's term, which runs through 2018. But there's a hitch: Officials facing criminal charges are ineligible. Both Speaker Rodrigo Maia and the next in line, Senate President Eunicio Oliveira, already are under investigation in corruption cases and would be disqualified if Brazil's top prosecutor decides to charge them. If both are ineligible, supreme court Chief Justice Carmen Lucia would take over until Congress chooses a new leader. Potential candidates for that role include:
The 71-year-old finance minister is seen as the man most likely to carry on with Temer's austerity measures and proposed pension and labor laws reforms. Those are unpopular among most Brazilians, though most economists say they're needed to revive the economy. Meirelles also served as central bank governor under former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. Before that, he spent much of his career in the private sector.
While Jobim, 71, is a member of Temer's Brazilian Democractic Movement Party, he has the broadest connections of the hopefuls. He was a minister under former Presidents Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff and also served as chief justice of the supreme court. As defense minister, he built close ties with Brazil's armed forces. However, he hasn't held elected office in decades. His professorial style is also seen as a liability at a moment when many believe Brazil needs a leader who can connect with people.
Brazil's judiciary appears stronger than ever after scores of corrupted politicians have been arrested and jailed in corruption probes over the past three years. Many observers believe that picking 63-year-old Lucia — a career lawyer with no political affiliation — would pacify Brazilians who are furious with the political class after years of scandals. Still, it's unclear if lawmakers, many of whom are facing corruption allegations, would pick a judge to govern them. Intense popular pressure could change that balance.