BRASILIA (AFP) - Impeached Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff filed a Supreme Court challenge on Thursday (Sept 1) to her removal from office in an early blow to new President Michel Temer’s bid to stabilise the country.
The appeal, filed by Rousseff’s lawyer Jose Eduardo Cardozo and seen by AFP, demands “the immediate suspension of the effects of the Senate decision.” The Senate voted on Wednesday to convict Rousseff on charges of having illegally manipulated government accounts, stripping her of her office and replacing her with Temer, her bitter enemy and former vice-president.
Cardozo’s appeal asks for “a new trial” during which Temer – who was sworn in as president up until the end of 2018 – would be downgraded to interim president.
Temer is now in China, attending a Group of 20 summit, while Rousseff remains in the Alvorada presidential palace in Brasilia. She is expected to leave shortly for her personal apartment in the southern city of Porto Alegre.
Rousseff was convicted by a two-thirds Senate majority of taking illegal state loans to patch budget holes in 2014, masking the country’s problems as it slid into economic disarray.
Senators voting for her removal said she had contributed to Brazil’s economic crisis and acted with criminal irresponsibility.
Rousseff, from the leftist Workers’ Party, denied doing anything illegal and claimed to be the victim of a right-wing coup d’etat.
In a surprise move, a Senate vote on barring Rousseff from public office for eight years failed, meaning she is free to reenter political life. The ban had been considered by many to be a standard consequence of removal in an impeachment trial.
Rousseff left office with rock bottom ratings after being blamed by most Brazilians for the country’s slide into double digit inflation and unemployment. She has also been tainted by the revelation of a colossal embezzlement and kickbacks scheme at state oil giant Petrobras, although she has not been accused of participating herself.
Temer, from the center-right PMDB party, rode that dissatisfaction all the way to the presidency in an impeachment process he describes as giving Brazil a chance to put its house back in order.
Soon after being sworn in Wednesday he told the nation that his only goal was to serve until 2018, leaving behind “a country that is reconciled, pacified and growing economically.” But Rousseff, who describes Temer as a coup plotter, went down fighting – and promises not to give up now.
“They have convicted an innocent person and carried out a parliamentary coup,” she said after the Senate vote on Wednesday, adding, defiantly, that she’d “be back.”
Rousseff’s coup accusation has gained only scattered support abroad and in a boost for Temer the US State Department said that the impeachment process was “in accordance with Brazil’s constitutional framework.”
“We’re confident that we will continue the strong bilateral relationship that exists between our two countries as the two largest democracies and economies in the hemisphere. Brazil and the United States are committed partners,” said spokesman John Kirby on Wednesday.
Temer’s struggle to consolidate power will face repeated challenges from the Workers’ Party and allied leftist organisations, especially when he attempts to push through austerity reforms that he says are needed to bring Brazil back to economic health.
Spending cuts, privatisations and attempting to curb the generous pension system – including by setting a minimum retirement age – are likely to provoke strong opposition both on the streets and in Congress.
“The priority for Temer will be addressing the country’s fiscal deficit, which is currently at 10.1 per cent of GDP and widening,” said a post-impeachment vote analysis by IHS Country Risk.
However, the measures needed “are highly likely to meet resistance in Congress, particularly in the short term as coalition members will likely oppose the implementation of unpopular measures prior to October’s municipal elections.”
“Strikes and industrial action risks are likely to increase over the next year,” the analysis said.