Next steps in Brazil’s presidential impeachment process

 14 Apr 2016 - 0:00

Next steps in Brazil’s presidential impeachment process
Brazil President Dilma Rousseff talks to Vice President Michel Temer at the Planalto Palace in Brasilia in this file photo. Reuters


BRASILIA: Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff’s government is struggling to shore up support against impeachment ahead of a Congressional vote on Sunday, with efforts to put her on trial gaining momentum after a lower house committee gave its approval.

Here are the next steps in the presidential impeachment under Brazil’s Constitution:

1)    After a lower house committee approved sending Rousseff for trial in the Senate on charges of manipulating the budget to boost her reelection in 2014, its recommendation must be put to the full lower house on Sunday. A televised ballot is due to start at 2 p.m. (1700 GMT).

Voting will be done by roll call and will begin with lawmakers from southern Brazil, where anti-Rousseff sentiment is strongest. It will end in the poorer region of northern Brazil, a bastion of support for her left-leaning Workers’ Party.

Her opponents believe this order of voting will give impeachment an early lead and put pressure on undecided congressmen to vote in favour of impeachment, which polls show has the support of the majority of Brazilians.

Rousseff’s opponents need the votes of two-thirds of 513 members of congress, or 342. Speaker Eduardo Cunha, a fierce critic of Rousseff, does not vote.

Rousseff requires 171 votes or abstentions to block impeachment.

2)    If Rousseff loses the lower house vote, the Senate must then vote on whether to go ahead with putting her on trial. The timing of this vote is unclear, but it is broadly expected to take place in early May.

Senate Speaker Renan Calheiros - a supporter of Rousseff - says the Supreme Court must provide a calendar for how the process should unfold.

A committee must be created to study the legal admissibility of the impeachment request, but not the merits of the case against Rousseff. It will then make a non-binding recommendation to the Senate.

If the Senate votes by a simple majority to accept the case, Rousseff will formally have been impeached and immediately be suspended from office. Vice President Michel Temer becomes acting president.

Senior senators have said that if the lower house sends Rousseff for trial she lacks the support in the Senate to prevent impeachment.

The Senate has 180 days to conduct its trial, chaired by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Ricardo Lewandowski.  Analysts say impeachment, if it goes ahead, will be a quick process given Brazil’s political crisis and could be decided by the end of May.

3)    If two-thirds of the 81-seat Senate, or 54 senators, vote against Rousseff during her impeachment she is found guilty. She is then stripped of her political rights and cannot run for elected office for eight years.

Temer will be confirmed as president for the rest of Rousseff’s term, ending on Dec. 31, 2018.

It would be the first time a Brazilian president has been impeached since Fernando Collor de Mello was stripped of office in 1992 on corruption charges. He is currently a senator.

(Reporting by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Daniel Flynn and Alistair Bell)