Michel Temer, poses for a picture after an interview with Reuters at his office in Brasilia, Brazil, January 16, 2017. REUTERS/Adriano Machado(reuters_tickers)
BRASILIA (Reuters) - The lower house of Brazil's Congress re-elected a close ally of President Michel Temer as its speaker on Thursday, confirming his government's majority and raising the chances of approval of unpopular fiscal austerity reforms.
Congressman Rodrigo Maia, of the centre-right Democrats party, comfortably retained the speakership with 293 votes, well in excess of the required simply majority of ballots. He has vowed to fast-track reform of Brazil's costly pension system that is the main cause of a growing budget deficit.
The pragmatic 46-year-old scion of a political family, Maia was first elected speaker last year when his scandal-tarnished predecessor Eduardo Cunha resigned to face a corruption trial.
He quickly became a key supporter of Temer's efforts to restore fiscal discipline and helped speed up approval of a 20-year cap on federal spending.
Maia promised to make the lower chamber a "protagonist" in Temer's reform agenda and give priority to passage of a bill modernising Brazil's outdated labour laws, a major demand from the businessmen struggling with a two-year recession.
His re-election came one day after Temer scored another victory when Senators elected the leader of his PMDB party in the Senate, Eunicio Oliveira, to head the upper chamber.
Oliveira and Maia face corruption allegations that could undermine their support for Temer's reforms.
Both have been accused of taking bribes by defendants in the massive Car Wash graft investigation in plea bargain statements that threaten to rock Brazil's political establishment and Temer's government. They deny any wrongdoing.
(Reporting by Maria Carolina Marcello and Anthony Boadle; Editing by Daniel Flynn and David Gregorio)