Friday, September 25, 2015

Rousseff Tries To Shore Up Position With Offer To Coalition Ally

September 25, 2015 9:33 am

Rousseff tries to shore up position with offer to coalition ally

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff meets with deputies at Planalto Palace in Brasilia, on September 15, 2015©AFP
President Dilma Rousseff tries to head off political crisis
As world leaders descended on New York this week for the annual United Nations General Assembly meetings, there was one Latin American president who must have irritated North American air traffic control with her constant change of flight plan.
Beset by a political crisis, Brazil’s leaderDilma Rousseff rescheduled the departure of her presidential jet twice on Thursday while she frantically negotiated a settlement to ensure she remained in power on her return.
In an attempt to head off a growing impeachmentmovement in congress, the president is offering politicians of her main coalition ally, the PMDB, increased power in her cabinet in return for not supporting opposition moves to oust her.
“She is creating the necessary conditions so that this coalition can consolidate and create the political stability needed for . . . the recovery of economic growth,” said Edinho Silva, communications minister for Ms Rousseff, in an interview.
The move to share power is seen as an 11th hour attempt by Ms Rousseff to retain office as a deepeningrecession, a vast corruption scandal at state-owned oil company Petrobras and failing investor confidence shatter her popularity.
Last week, the mood in Brazil’s national congress darkened as Hélio Bicudo, a founding member of Ms Rousseff`s left-leaning Workers’ Party, the PT, turned dissident, filed the first credible petition for her impeachment.
This, together with backpedalling on the government’s fiscal promises that prompted a credit rating downgrade by Standard & Poor’s as well as general emerging market gloom, helped drive Brazil’s currency, the real, to an all-time intraday low of R$4.2479 against the dollar on Thursday.
The currency later strengthened to close at R$3.9507 following central bank talk of intervention using Brazil’s large foreign exchange reserves and rumours that Ms Rousseff might regain control of the political situation.
The president won election for a second term only last year but her popularity has since plunged to the lowest in opinion polls for any president in Brazil`s modern democratic history.
This has left her vulnerable to a rebellious congress keen to extract further concessions from the executive without being held responsible for the poor state of the economy, analysts say.
To start an impeachment process, the opposition needs only 257 seats of the 513-seat lower house. To head this off, Ms Rousseff is offering disaffected members of her ally, the PMDB, a grouping of regional politicians, plum jobs in a new reduced cabinet.
These jobs reportedly could include the health ministry, traditionally a key post for Ms Rousseff’s own socialist PT. Mr Silva declined to reveal the composition of the new cabinet but said the PMDB would retain six important ministries in a cabinet reduced from 39 to 29 positions. The PT would have its number of ministries reduced by five, he said.
“Most important is the concept of coalition that will start to be exercised, in which the PMDB will have a fundamental role in the decision-making process in the management of the country,” he said.
Power-sharing should also increase the chances of her attempts to balance the budget passing in congress, Mr Silva said. This would be good news for markets if Ms Rousseff could pull it off.
My position is the PMDB should decide now to leave the government
- Eduardo Cunha, PMDB member
“This movement is important to create political stability so that the government can approve the principal adjustment measures and deepen those already under way,” said Mr Silva.
He did not say, however, whether all of the leaders of the PMDB, a loose federation of interests that often act against one another, supported the power-sharing agreement.
Brazilian media quoted the powerful house speaker, Eduardo Cunha, a PMDB member who has split with the ruling coalition in his personal capacity, as opposing the agreement.
“My position is the PMDB should decide now to leave the government,” Mr Cunha told reporters.
There had been rumours that the agreement would be announced on Thursday — one of the reasons for Ms Rousseff`s constant rescheduling of her flights.
But disagreement over its final contents meant it would probably now not be unveiled until at least next Tuesday, on her return from New York, local media reported.
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