RIO DE JANEIRO – Key leaders in the governing coalition of embattled Brazilian President Michel Temer are now speculating about who might replace him if he is forced from office by a corruption scandal — frank talk that underscores his fragile grasp on power.
Brazil's top prosecutor has opened investigations into the president for alleged obstruction of justice and passive corruption. Temer, then vice president, rose to the presidency a little over a year ago when President Dilma Rousseff was suspended and then removed for illegally managing the federal budget.
Temer's administration has lurched from one crisis to another, the latest being the emergence of a recording that apparently captures him endorsing hush money for a former lawmaker serving a 15-year prison sentence. Temer denies wrongdoing and has vowed not to resign.
If he resigns or is forced out, Congress would vote on a new leader to finish the term, which goes through 2018.
On both Thursday and Friday, leaders of the right-leaning Brazilian Social Democracy Party, a junior partner in Temer's governing coalition, skipped chances to support Temer and instead talked about what might come next.
Sao Paulo state Gov. Geraldo Alckmin said Friday that former President Fernando Henrique Cardoso and Sen. Tasso Jereissati would be good candidates to replace Temer if he should be removed.
Alckmin, who himself plans to run in next year's presidential election, ruled himself out for the possible vote that might choose a president and a vice president until December 2018.
The governor, who lost the 2006 presidential election to Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, said his party has to "support the government, support Brazil" so austerity measures and unpopular reforms get through Congress.
Speaking Thursday night, Jereissati declined to give open support for Temer remaining in office. However, he said the embattled leader would be consulted in case he is pushed out and there is an election.
Jereissati was appointed party chairman after his predecessor, Sen. Aecio Neves, was engulfed in the same corruption investigation. Jereissati said his party will decide whether to break away from Temer after the country's top electoral court rules on whether the 2014 campaign of Rousseff and Temer received illegal financing. A ruling is expected in early June.
Other members of the party in Congress have said over the week that staying too close to Temer now could affect them in next year's elections.
Asked whether he saw himself as a possible candidate, Jereissati said: "I didn't think of it, no one thought of that." But many other members of his party have insisted he should run at least for vice president.