“Temer out” to “come back, Temer”: Brazil’s night of the living dead

In 2016, “Temer out” was the rallying cry of an overwhelming portion of the Brazilian population, desperate to see the back of unelected President Michel Temer who had taken power after the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff. When he eventually left office with single-digit approval ratings, no-one could imagine that Mr. Temer would be welcomed back to the Planalto Palace with open arms just a few years later.

Mr. Temer was flown into Brasília at a moment’s notice last week to save President Jair Bolsonaro’s skin amid an imminent rupture with the Supreme Court and Congress, reminding Brazilians of his invaluable talent for diplomacy, shaped over around sixty years of public service.  

Mr. Temer reportedly penned President Bolsonaro’s now notorious conciliation letter, in which the head of state claimed his attacks against Supreme Court justices were said “in the heat of the moment.”

The olive branch was not well received by President Bolsonaro’s most loyal supporters, dismayed by the far-right leader’s apparent climbdown from his anti-democratic stances. Indeed, turning to Michel Temer for help was initially seen as treason, with the former president being one of the biggest proponents of the “old politics” Mr. Bolsonaro claims to fight against.

For others, however, Mr. Temer’s comeback brought a sense of perspective that only time can give. As our editor-in-chief Gustavo Ribeiro recently wrote, under Jair Bolsonaro, even the Temer era feels like a golden age.

Now, there are even suggestions that Michel Temer’s return as “the peacemaker” could turn him into a viable third way option for next year’s election. He is set to be included in upcoming opinion polls, but it is unlikely he would be able to leverage a return to Brazil’s top job. Popularity has never been Mr. Temer’s strong suit. For now, however, it is safe to say that whenever political stability is at the door, Brazil can always call on Michel Temer.