Tue Aug 1, 2017 5:52PM
Brazilian President Michel Temer attends a meeting in Rio de Janeiro on July 30, 2017. (AFP photo)
Brazilian President Michel Temer attends a meeting in Rio de Janeiro on July 30, 2017. (AFP photo)

The Brazilian lower house of Congress is set to vote whether to put President Michel Temer on trial over corruption charges, as the prospect of a second major power vacuum looms over the country.

The 513-member Chamber of Deputies is set to vote on Wednesday with regard to the center-right president’s case.

Temer was charged in June with the acceptance of bribes from the executive of the world’s largest meatpacking firm, JBS SA, in exchange for helping the company obtain favorable government decisions. The Brazilian president has denied the accusation.

If two-thirds of the lawmakers accept the charge, Temer will be suspended for 180 days and sent to face trial at the Supreme Court.

Analysts say the president enjoys enough support to prevent the two-thirds vote and be cleared of the charges. However, Temer is still vulnerable as he could soon face a new corruption charge by top prosecutor Rodrigo Janot.

The main concern for Temer’s camp is a possible postponement of the vote, as any delay could weaken the president.

"Five major parties have already decided to back the president and that alone comes to 200 votes," said an aide.

 House Speaker Rodrigo Maia, a Temer ally who would become interim president if a trial started, stressed that the vote should be held on time, noting, "Brazil needs clarity on this. You can't play around with such a serious situation."

Opposition lawmakers have threatened not to take part at the voting session in an attempt to prevent the required quorum, which is also two-thirds, or 342 deputies.

"The government does not have enough votes to open the session," said Paul Pimento, from leftist Workers' Party.

"Every day, new information comes in on other corruption cases involving the government. The more of this that comes to the attention of voters and Congress, the greater the chances of us getting the votes to remove Temer," Pimento added.

The file photo shows a view of Brazil’s lower house of Congress.

The crisis comes a year after lawmakers dismissed Temer's leftist predecessor Dilma Rousseff from Workers' Party in an impeachment trial. Rousseff claims that she was the victim of a coup staged by the right, including Temer, who was her vice president.

Temer now suffers the historically low five percent approval ratings after being the highest-profile target of the Operation Car Wash anti-graft probe, which has revealed bribery and embezzlement among Brazilian politicians.

Temer is alleged to have been the intended recipient of $150,000 in cash, as part of a steady flow of bribes from the JBS meatpacking giant. The money was caught from a close aide in Sao Paulo.

The president also faces another investigation with regard to his recorded meeting with one of JBS's owners, Joesley Batista, in which Temer is allegedly heard authorizing bribe payments to a former senior politician convicted of corruption.

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Batista gave the recording to the prosecutors as part of his cooperation in a plea deal.

In mid-July, Brazil’s Chamber of Deputies committee handed a largely symbolic victory to Temer by rejecting a recommendation to have him tried on graft charges.

Temer issued a statement calling the vote “a win for democracy and the law.”

The decision came a day after another former president and a founding member of the Workers’ Party, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, was convicted of corruption and sentenced to almost 10 years in prison.

Lula da Silva remains free while an appeal is heard.

Lula accused the court of having acted based on political motivations and vowed to appeal his conviction and run for president next year.

If his conviction is upheld, Lula will be barred from seeking office. He is considered the front-runner for the 2018 presidential race.