President Michel Temer is so unpopular that he has so far failed to convinced many in his own party that he is a viable candidate for the country’s top job in this year’s elections.
Key aides within the government are pushing him to run, but fellow members of his Democratic Movement Party, or MDB, are less enthused and consider him a weak candidate, according to five people heard by Bloomberg News. They fear that Temer’s presence at the head of the party ticket will undermine voter support for the MDB’s senatorial and gubernatorial candidates. Many of the parties in his ruling coalition have their own candidates, such as Geraldo Alckmin, for the PSDB, and Rodrigo Maia, for the DEM.
“This is a government with an 87 percent rejection rating,” said Fabio Ramalho, member of the MDB and vice-president of the lower house. “It will be a very difficult campaign.”
Temer has indicated that he wishes to run for the presidency as a way of defending his legacy in office, despite his single-digit approval ratings. But support for his candidacy is so lukewarm within the party, that Brazil’s Finance Minister Henrique Meirelles is going to formally join the MDB next week in the hopes of getting its nomination ahead of the president.
The arrest on Thursday of a Temer confidant and former aide, Jose Yunes, in relation to a corruption probe, reinforces the fragility of a president who himself was fighting for his political survival only six months ago.
“It could be the nail in the coffin, if there were many people believing in the president’s election to begin with,” said Vladimir Caramaschi, chief strategist at CA Indosuez.
Temer’s press office declined to comment on the arrest or the president’s electoral ambitions.
Traditionally, the MDB has preferred to play the kingmaker, rather than seek to put one of its own in the presidency. The last time the party ran a candidate was in 1994, when Orestes Quercia, an ex-governor of Sao Paulo, came fourth with just over 4 percent of the vote. However the party has occupied the nation’s top office on three occasions since the return to democracy after its vice-presidents were promoted following either a death, a resignation or an impeachment.
Temer’s floating the idea of candidacy is designed mostly as a bargaining chip to ensure a good position in any future government, according to a senior party source, speaking on condition of anonymity. As such, the party hasn’t ruled out sticking with its recent history of supporting a winner rather than fielding its own candidate, the person said.