In crushing defeat, Brazil’s Rousseff moves close to impeachment
BRASILIA – Brazil’s leftist President Dilma Rousseff suffered a humiliating loss in a crucial impeachment vote in the lower house of Congress and is almost certain to be forced from office months before the nation hosts the Olympics.
Fireworks lit up the night sky in Brazil’s megacities of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro after the opposition comfortably surpassed the two-thirds majority needed to send Rousseff for trial in the Senate on charges of manipulating budget accounts.
The floor of the lower house was a sea of Brazilian flags and pumping fists as dozens of lawmakers carried in their arms the deputy who cast the decisive 342nd vote, after three days of a marathon debate.
The final tally was 367 votes cast in favour of impeachment, versus 137 against, and seven abstentions. Two lawmakers did not show up to vote.
Brazilian financial markets were expected to open higher on Monday after the vote – a major step toward ending 13 years of the left-leaning Workers’ Party rule in the world’s ninth largest economy.
If the Senate now votes by a simple majority in early May to proceed with the impeachment, as expected, Rousseff would be suspended from her post and be replaced by Vice President Michel Temer as acting president, pending her trial. Temer would serve out Rousseff’s term until 2018 if she is found guilty.
The impeachment battle, waged during Brazil’s worst recession since the 1930s, has divided the country of 200 million people more deeply than at any time since the end of its military dictatorship in 1985.
It has also sparked a bitter battle between the 68-year-old Rousseff and Temer, 75, that could destabilise any future government and plunge Brazil into months of uncertainty.
Despite anger at rising unemployment, Rousseff’s Workers Party can still rely on support among millions of working-class Brazilians, who credit its welfare programs with pulling their families out of poverty during the past decade.
“The fight is going to continue now in the streets and in the federal Senate,” said Jose Guimaraes, the leader of the Workers’ Party in the lower house. “We lost because the coup-mongers were stronger.”
Opinion polls suggest more than 60 percent of Brazilians support impeaching Rousseff, Brazil’s first female president, less than two years after she won reelection in 2014.
While she has not been accused of corruption, Rousseff’s government has been tainted by a vast graft scandal at state oil company Petrobras and by the economic recession. -Reuters