Brazil Heads For Impeachment Vote; Dilma Unlikely To Survive The Week
NEW DELHI: As the curtains were drawn over the Olympic games at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil is back in the news for another event -- the impeachment of its President Dilma Rousseff. Rousseff is expected to address the Senate on Monday, in her final defence before the impeachment vote likely to be on Tuesday. Voting is expected to go on into the night, and probably until Wednesday morning.
The impeachment trial entered its final phase on Thursday, with Rousseff unlikely to survive another week in office. The process has taken its time, with congressional debates starting back in December and Rousseff being suspended by the Senate by a vote of 55 to 22 on May 12 after a marathon 21 hour session.
The impeachment trial will now columinate in an impeachment vote the coming week, and it will take a two-thirds majority, i.e. 54 of the 81 senators to formally remove Rousseff from the post of President. In the case of that likely scenario, acting President Michel Temer -- who took over from the post of Vice President in May -- will lead Brazil until new elections in 2018.
Rousseff has been in power since 2011; she was re-elected in 2014 by a razor-thin margin, but it is unlikely that she will continue as she has suffered a range of defeats -- first in the Chamber of Deputies, where 71.5 percent of the lawmakers gave the green light to the impeachment proceedings and then in the Senate.
Her troubles began when Brazil’s once booming economy began to crash -- as a result of a fall in global commodity prices that progressively decimated the national economy throughout her tenure. This was exacerbated by a huge corruption scandal involving politicos and executives at the state oil company, where Rousseff was once the chair. More than 200 members of the business community and politicians were implicated, including former president Lula and other PT leaders, which smeared the image of the government.
Interestingly, Rousseff herself is not accused of corruption. Her trial, instead, is about creative accounting -- a charge she admits to and defends herself for by maintaining that Brazilian Presidents have been doing it for years. Creative accounting is essentially the charge that Rousseff broke fiscal laws by shuffling money around government accounts. The trial, therefore, is to investigate whether those charges stick.
The background of the corruption scandals in the wake of an economic downturn strengthened allegations that Rousseff violated fiscal responsibility laws by signing decrees increasing public spending without authorisation and by obtaining loans to the federal government from state-owned banks.
Rousseff therefore faces criticism for hiding the scope of the government’s deficit problem and announcing an expansion of social programmes that was not economically feasible, due to a lack of funds.
Nevertheless, her supporters denounce the impeachment proceedings as a “coup.” She still enjoys the firm support of a significant minority made up of left-wing parties and social movements capable of mobilising huge public protests.
As Rousseff prepares to address the Senate, the likelihood of her surviving seems low. She needs at least 28 senators to vote against impeachment, abstain or not show up. As of Friday, Brazil’s O Globo newspaper reported 52 senators have already decided to vote for impeachment, 18 would vote against impeachment and 11 were undecided.