Demonstrators protest against Brazilian President Michel Temer in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Photo: AFP

Protests against Brazilian president Michel Temer turned violent this week, with demonstrators setting fire to government ministries and clashing with overwhelmed police forces.

The deteriorating situation led the besieged president to approve a decree allowing troops to assist police, a move that prompted immediate criticism, and comparisons to the previous military dictatorship in Brazil.

“What are they going to do? Intervene and wage war against the people that are out there on the esplanade?” Senator Gleisi Hoffmann was quoted by Reuters as saying on the Brazilian Senate floor.

Brazil’s electoral court will decide in June whether or not to annul Temer’s 2014 election victory. Should Temer be removed from office, the Congress would have 30 days to choose a transitional successor.

Political factions allied with Temer are split over whether to try to salvage a coalition built around Temer, which has pushed for market-friendly policies considered important to bringing much needed investment into the country.