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Temer: the man poised to be Brazil's next president

Michel Temer used to be known in Brazil as a behind-the-scenes operator, but that was before he pulled the trigger on a masterful plot to topple his boss, President Dilma Rousseff, and take her job.

[Sao Paulo] Michel Temer used to be known in Brazil as a behind-the-scenes operator, but that was before he pulled the trigger on a masterful plot to topple his boss, President Dilma Rousseff, and take her job.

After months of playing his cards close to his chest, the vice-president is poised to take over as president on Thursday, when the Senate is expected to open an impeachment trial against Ms Rousseff.

Brazil's first woman president will then be suspended for up to six months, and Mr Temer, a constitutional scholar who kept a low profile until now, will take her place.

Ms Rousseff's running mate-turned-nemesis has already lined up a business-friendly cabinet and hatched plans to pivot away from 13 years of left-leaning policy in a bid to get the ailing South American giant's economy out of recession.

But with popularity ratings as dismal as Ms Rousseff's and many of his allies implicated in corruption, Mr Temer will face a tall task restoring stability in Brazil.

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The 75-year-old lawyer had long been a backroom wheeler-dealer. He was perhaps best known to voters for having a 32-year-old former beauty contestant as a wife.

But as Brazil's economic boom turned to spectacular bust and a corruption scandal at state oil company Petrobras tainted nearly the entire political class, Mr Temer slowly emerged from the shadows to seize the starring role.

Ms Rousseff and her running mate always made an awkward couple. As head of the PMDB, a centrist party, Mr Temer represented the biggest force in the former leftist guerrilla's shaky coalition.

For years, the PMDB played the role of kingmaker, content with pulling the strings and keeping the keys to the government pork barrel.

Mr Temer played his hand cautiously, gradually making his disapproval of Ms Rousseff known as the momentum to impeach her built.

In October, he published a document called "A bridge to the future" in which he criticised "excesses" in government policies. And in December, he complained of being treated as "a decorative vice president."

But while lower-level PMDB supporters liked to refer to him as "President Temer," he insisted he had no such ambitions, except perhaps for the next scheduled elections in 2018.

Finally, in March, he came out into the open, calling on the PMDB to abandon the government and go into opposition.

Mr Temer followed that up by brazenly leaking an audio recording of himself practicing the speech he'd give if he were to replace Ms Rousseff.

In it, he said his "great mission from now is the calming of the country, the unification of the country." The president calls him a leading "conspirator" in the impeachment process, which she says has turned the commonly accepted practice of papering over shortfalls in the government's accounts into an excuse for a "coup."

For someone known as a colourless political insider, Mr Temer has a surprising side.

Not only is he married to a woman less than half his age, but this is his third marriage. He has five children born across four decades.

Nor is he the stuffed suit that he might appear to be on television. In addition to a highly regarded work on constitutional law, this child of Lebanese immigrants has authored a book of poetry.

He has served three times as speaker of the lower house of Congress and has been president of the PMDB for 15 years.

Mr Temer does not apologise for his dour manner, telling Piaui magazine in 2010 that joking is not his thing: "I don't know how to do this. If I tried, it would be a disaster."

That persona may account for his rock-bottom popularity - only two per cent of the country would vote for him in a presidential election, according to a recent poll.

Political analysts say his most immediate threat comes from the Petrobras scandal, in which a host of powerful PMDB colleagues are implicated.

Mr Temer himself is not under investigation, but a key witness has accused him of participating in schemes to bilk the company of billions of dollars.

The VP also stands accused of the same budgetary shenanigans that Ms Rousseff is being impeached for - and opponents are calling for him to face the same fate.


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