The head of President Dilma Rousseff's office, Jaques Wagner, said Tuesday (Mar. 29) that the news that PMDB, the largest party in the governing coalition, has withdrawn support for the government did not come as a shock. He said the announcement was “timely” and will give the government an opportunity to “realign” with other political allies. More should become known about this so-called “realignment” by Friday (April 1st), he said.
According to him, while Rousseff lost an “important partner”, she is already engaged in conversations to bring in new allies. Moreover, he said, the PMDB rupture leads to a “break” in the government's political relations with Vice-President Michel Temer, who chairs the party. “It will always be a cordial relationship, that's it. I just hope it stays cordial,” he said.
The government will now focus on seeking support to avert Rousseff''s impeachment as the proceedings press ahead in Congress. “An impeachment without a cause is a coup,” Wagner said. Asked about which PMDB ministers should remain in cabinet, he said he did not know yet, because he had not had the opportunity to talk with the president since the PMDB announced its decision yesterday.
“It all will be up to the ministers and the president. She is still thinking about what happened. I think it came as a positive thing that [PMDB] made [its decision to walk away from goernment] before the vote [on impeachment], because this will give the government a chance to realign the government's allegiances not only for the upcoming vote, but also for the two years and nine months left of Rousseff's term,” he said.
Wagner evaded questions about a contradiction in Temer continuing as vice-president, saying the vice-president's tenure belongs to Temer and it is up to him to decide. Without directly mentioning Temer, Wagner vaguely said anyone who takes over the government other than by legitimate means will face difficulties.
Reaction at Senate
The PMDB's exit from the governing coalition has sparked reactions at Senate. In his address, Senator Humberto Costa, the government's leader at the upper house, criticized the Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, Eduardo Cunha, calling him a “bandit” for opening impeachment proceedings against Rousseff.
Minutes before the PMDB decided to leave the government by acclamation, Costa said the proceedings are a scam “which has unfortunately been adhered to by PMDB members, especially the vice-president, who will be directly benefited [in case Rousseff is impeached].”
Senator Romero Jucá, PMDB's vice-chair and one of the party's most important figures at Senate, contended that “the [ruling] Workers' Party's attitude is one of someone who knows they have been defeated. Hostility will not solve the difficulties the country is facing. I think the Workers' Party should try to rebuild itself and redirect the government's actions.”
According to Jucá, the rupture does not mean that the PMDB has shifted to the opposition—it has just chosen a more independent stance. “PMDB has tried to help all these years, but the social and political situation has become so severe, with people losing jobs every day and all, that the PMDB can no longer accept that. So we have left the governing coalition, offered resignation from all our cabinet seats, and are no longer aligned with the Workers' Party. From now on, we will support the proposals that we think are good for the country, and reject those we think will be detrimental,” Jucá said.
According to Edison Lobão, another PMDB senator who has served as Minister of Mines and Energy earlier in Rousseff's administration, the party chose to make its decision by acclamation in order to “avoid creating embarrassment to our comrades.” Lobão said the party's immediate concern now is the resignation of the seven PMDB ministers still in cabinet. He said they should be given more time to hand over their roles.
The PMDB's exit from the governing coalition has been anticipated as one of the most serious factors to threaten Rousseff with impeachment since the beginning of the political crisis. On the same day PMDB announced its rupture, the rapporteur of the special committee on impeachment of the Chamber of Deputies said he was planning to issue his recommendation earlier than expected so that a floor vote could take place as soon as possible.
Translated by Mayra Borges