Debate begins over Brazil President's fate

An activist supporting the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff taking part in a protest outside the Supreme Court in Brasilia on Thursday. A request to block the impeachment proceedings was refused.
An activist supporting the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff taking part in a protest outside the Supreme Court in Brasilia on Thursday. A request to block the impeachment proceedings was refused.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Lower House to decide whether to impeach her over alleged fudging of Budget numbers

BRASILIA • It could be the beginning of the end for Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, as lawmakers began debating yesterday whether to recommend her impeachment over alleged budgetary shenanigans.

A "yes" vote to move the case on to the Senate for a definitive ruling would be a stunning development, deepening the woes of an angry, troubled and recession-plagued country gearing up to host the Olympics this summer.

The Lower House of Congress began three days of debate yesterday morning.

The big vote is tomorrow. It promises to be one of the most dramatic chapters in Brazil's young democracy, restored in 1985 after two decades of military dictatorship.

Until a few years ago, Brazil was on a roll, with robust economic growth that made it the poster child for emerging economies, bringing millions out of poverty in South America's largest economy.

Now, amid a huge, separate corruption scandal and other woes, it is a mess.

In the wee hours yesterday, Ms Rousseff lost a last-ditch effort in the Supreme Court to block the impeachment proceedings.

Justices refused a request for an injunction against proceedings that the government lawyer called "Kafkaesque" and said amounted to denying Ms Rousseff the opportunity to defend herself against allegations of illegally fudging government Budget numbers to boost her re-election chances in 2014.

The 7-3 ruling in an emergency Supreme Court session paved the way for the vote by the Lower House of Congress.

Latest counts of voting intentions in the Lower House by major Brazilian newspapers show the pro-impeachment camp either at, or on the verge of, the necessary two-thirds majority.

If the vote passes tomorrow, the Senate will have the authority to open a trial against Ms Rousseff. If the Senate finds her guilty with another two-thirds vote, she would be forced from office.

Ms Rousseff has been desperately trying to assemble support in the Lower House to prevent the opposition amassing the 342 out of a total 513 votes they need to move the impeachment forward.

Several of the parties in Ms Rousseff's coalition have jumped ship, starting with Vice-President Michel Temer's PMDB.

Scores of lawmakers have since turned against Ms Rousseff, saying they will vote for impeachment.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 16, 2016, with the headline 'Debate begins over Brazil President's fate'. Print Edition | Subscribe