BRASILIA (AFP) - Brazil's Supreme Court on Tuesday (Dec 8) suspended action by a special congressional commission weighing impeachment proceedings against embattled President Dilma Rousseff.
The move freezes the impeachment process until Dec 16, when the court convenes for a full session.
Brazil's first female president, a moderate leftist, is accused of illegal budgeting manoeuvres, but says the practices were long accepted by previous governments. She calls the attempt to bring her down a "coup".
Ms Rousseff is fighting for her political life just one year into her second term at the head of the world's seventh biggest economy.
The commission is charged with studying the case, then making a recommendation to the Lower House of Congress, where a two-thirds vote would be required to put Ms Rousseff on trial in the Upper House and possibly force her from office.
The unrest is stirring passions across the South American country of 204 million people, where Ms Rousseff's Workers' Party has been in power since 2003 with the help of its often uncomfortable partner the centrist PMDB.
In Congress, just hours earlier, dozens of deputies nearly came to blows as they argued over procedures for voting the members of the commission.
Some danced and waved a Brazilian flag, others shook their fists in opponents' faces, and Rousseff loyalists reportedly broke voting urns in their anger.