Brazil's President Michel Temer on Wednesday survived a congressional vote that could have suspended him over a bribery charge, mustering enough support to avoid a trial.
Temer needed the support of just one-third — 171 — of the 513 members of the lower Chamber of Deputies. Hours after the voting began, he had received the votes of more than that number of legislators. A final tally was expected later in the evening.
Members of Congress were announced and asked to announce their votes. While members voting against Temer were outspoken, most who supported him simply said "no," a sign that many preferred not to broadcast their support for a leader deeply unpopular across the country.
Despite the victory, the vote was expected to serve as a referendum on Temer's ability to govern and pass unpopular reforms intended to lift the country out of a prolonged recession.
"Brazil can't change presidents three times in one year,'' Sergio Moraes, a Temer supporter, said. "He will be investigated later.''
Temer took office about a year ago, after Dilma Rousseff was impeached and removed as president for improperly handling government finances.
Temer is accused of corruption after a close aide was given $150,000 in cash — part of $12 million in bribes prosecutors allege he and the aide were due to receive after intervening in a business deal.
Temer 'is a good man'
During his opening statement, Antonio Claudio Mariz de Oliveira, Temer's lawyer, tore into the charges against Temer. He said that a recording secretly made of the president in March was illegal and that a confiscated suitcase of money, allegedly destined for Temer, was a red herring.
"The suitcase of money was returned'' by the police to the Temer aide who had been carrying it, Mariz de Oliveira said. "Why was it returned? Because the president is a good man, an innocent man.''
During her impeachment, Rousseff accused Temer, her former vice president, of attempting a coup.
Since taking over, Temer has been hit by one scandal after another. And with his 5 percent approval rating even lower than Rousseff's was, Brazilians are wondering whether his government is even more compromised than the one it forced out.
Temer's future remains in the balance.
Attorney General Rodrigo Janot, who leveled the bribery charge against Temer, is expected to charge him with obstruction of justice by the end of the month. That would provoke a second vote, forcing his allies to again decide whether to risk their own political futures by sticking with the deeply unpopular leader.
All 513 seats in the chamber are up for election next year.