The question of whether Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff would avoid impeachment has finally been answered. In the early hours of May 12, the Brazilian Senate voted 55 to 22 in favor of removing her from her post. Rousseff was forced to abdicate the presidency immediately, leaving Vice President Michel Temer temporarily in charge of the country. Rousseff will now turn her attention toward the lengthy trial that awaits her in the Senate as she answers to charges of manipulating government bank accounts. After the hearings, which could take up to 180 days, her impeachment will become final if the Senate replicates the two-thirds majority vote it made for her ouster.
In the meantime, Temer's ascent will not necessarily do much to stabilize Brazil's volatile political scene. The acting president faces his own court battle, should the Supreme Electoral Court decide that he used campaign donations illegally obtained through corrupt activities to get re-elected in 2014. If Temer loses that case, he could be removed from office as well. If he is, Brazil will have to hold an election to choose its next president.
Though there are several potential contenders for the country's highest office, some of the front-runners carry their own political baggage. Popular former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, for example, is the subject of a corruption investigation, one that could culminate in criminal charges.
For now, Temer will use his presidential tenure — however long it lasts — to try to make progress on his biggest policy objectives. Chief among them will be enacting a minimum retirement age to reduce federal pension expenses and freeing earmarked revenue for use on other budget items. Temer might also try to rescind the law requiring state-owned energy firm Petroleo Brasileiro to act as the lead operator in all exploration and production contracts for offshore pre-salt energy projects. That could attract more investment into Brazil's energy sector by international oil companies.
On its own, Rousseff's removal will not be enough to undo the damage that persistent deterioration has wrought on the Brazilian economy. Instead, the recovery of the country's public finances will largely depend on the actions Temer takes in the months ahead. But because his presidency could easily be cut short, Brazil may have little more to look forward to than a new round of elections.