Brazil's Supreme Court on Monday (5 December) ordered senior politician Renan Calheiros to step down from the office of president of the Senate, a court spokesman said. Calheiros has been accused of taking bribes from a construction company.

Calheiros, as head of the Senate, was second in line after speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, Rodrigo Maia, as the country does not have a vice-president presently since the impeachment of former president Dilma Rousseff. Former vice-president Michel Temer has replaced Rousseff since then.

Judge Marco Aurelio Mello said while issuing an injunction that Calheiros ­– who is a close allies of centre-right President Michel Temer – cannot be in power as he was indicted last week on charges of embezzlement. The removal of Calheiros was believed to be a big blow to Temer, whose government has been destabilized by corruption scandals.

The injunction against Calheiros was based on a majority ruling by the high court in November that says any person indicted for a crime could not be in the presidential line of succession.

Mello's decision is applicable with immediate effect, but it can still be challenged by a majority of Supreme Court judges.

Calheiros was prosecuted on 1 December against a case that dates back to 2007. The nine-year-old case accuses the ex-president of the Senate of taking bribes from a construction company. He is accused of agreeing with the company to pay maintenance for a daughter he had in an extramarital affair with a journalist.

The 61-year-old former politician is also facing interrogation in a separate case, where he is alleged of involved in a big kickback scheme at the state-owned oil company, Petrobras.