BRASILIA – Brazil’s Senate elected an ally of President Michel Temer as its new leader on Wednesday, providing key support in the upper chamber for proposed reforms to restore fiscal discipline.
Senator Eunicio Oliveira, 64, was elected Senate president by a vote of 61-10, despite accusations that he took a bribe of 2.1 million reais ($670,000) from a defendant in a sweeping graft investigation. Oliveira has denied the bribery allegation.
Oliveira was leader of Temer’s Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB) in the Senate. His election for two years will help Temer muster support for a bill reforming Brazil’s costly pension system, part of his plan to plug a huge budget deficit.
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As head of the Senate, Oliveira will be second in the presidential line of succession, after the Speaker of the lower chamber.
Oliveira succeeded Senator Renan Calheiros, who completed his term in office after defying a Supreme Court order to step down last year following his indictment in one of five corruption cases against him.
“The Senate must not fall out of step with the current momentum in the fight against corruption in the country,” Oliveira said in a speech before the vote. He vowed to defend the independence of the legislature from judicial interference.
Protesters at an anti-corruption demonstration outside Congress said Oliveira was no different than Calheiros, who is expected to switch places with him to become the PMDB whip.