Cabinet members leaving government increases lame duck impression
The characterization of the remainder of President Temer’s administration as a lame duck has been very much reinforced by recent facts. The government has lost four cabinet members in less than two months, its replacements have been controversial and current prospects are that at least half of the ministers will leave office by April.
By law, federal cabinet members who wish to run for elected office have to resign six months before polling day (April 7 this year). Although this rule tends to result in a significant reshuffling every general election year, the 2018 turnover seems unusually high and has started earlier than normal.
Apparently, several ministers would like to sever their formal association with the very unpopular president as soon as possible so that they can present themselves to voters as detached from this administration. Therefore, some of the government’s key positions (such as ministers of agriculture, foreign affairs, mines and industry) will be filled by political lightweights who in turn bring scant political dividends and premature weakening to the administration during its final year in power.
To make matters worse, the most important asset in Temer’s cabinet, Finance Minister Henrique Meirelles, is giving strong indications that he, too, might leave to run for president, a possibility that is making the markets uneasy. His deputy and most likely replacement, Eduardo Guardia, is an almost complete unknown and would be received with reservations.
Some actions Meirelles is contemplating, such as altering the so-called “golden rule,” could be seen as self-serving, paving the way for his candidacy to the detriment of the country. The “golden rule” is a constitutional provision that prohibits the federal government from borrowing funds from the stock market that are greater than the investments it plans on making. The constitutional change is also being considered by another potential presidential candidate, House Speaker Rodrigo Maia, who has been showing signs that he might intend to run as well.
Meirelles and Maia are Temer’s two most significant allies. With one or both of them running to replace him, Temer’s power will be dramatically curtailed for the remainder of his term.
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