Brazil’s Senate on Friday began the second day of deliberations in a trial to decide whether to permanently remove President Dilma Rousseff from office. While the formal accusations against Rousseff are related to her management of the federal budget, the leadership fight involves much more. The AP explains how we got to this point and how the trial is likely to play out.
How Rousseff’s support collapsed
Rousseff was re-elected to a second four-year term in October 2014. As the economy worsened, hundreds of thousands took to the streets in early 2015, with many demanding the ouster of Rousseff and her left-leaning Workers’ Party. Her foes in Congress introduced a measure last year to impeach and remove her. In April, the Chamber of Deputies approved it 367-137 and in May, the Senate voted 55-22 in favour. Rousseff was suspended and Vice President Michel Temer became interim president.
The charges: Illegally moving money between budgets
Rousseff is accused of illegally shifting funds between government budgets. Opposition parties say that was to boost public spending and shore up support while masking the depths of deficits. Rousseff says other former presidents used similar accounting techniques.
The trial begins
Supreme Court chief justice Ricardo Lewandowski will preside as witnesses from both sides testify and senators cross-examine them. Rousseff is expected to testify on Monday. A vote is expected by the middle of next week. A supermajority - 54 of the 81 senators - is needed to convict her, which would result in her permanent removal from office.
The defence: It’s a coup!
Rousseff and her backers say impeachment is a “coup” by corrupt opposition lawmakers meant to derail investigations into into billions of dollars in kickbacks at the state oil company. They also argue that Brazil’s ruling class wants to end 13 years of leftist government. Opponents say Rousseff’s budget manoeuvres aggravated the crisis in Latin America’s largest economy.
The stakes: Being banished from office
A conviction would permanently remove Rousseff from the presidency and bar her from holding any office for eight years. Temer would serve out her term, which ends Dec. 21, 2018. If convicted, Rousseff will likely appeal to the country’s highest court. But previous appeals during the process have failed.
Another possibility: Return to office
If fewer than 54 senators vote to remove her, Rousseff would return to office. She’s promised that if that happens, she would let voters decide in a plebiscite whether they want early presidential elections.
Brazil’s poisoned politics cloud the future
Brazilians are soured on politicians in general; both Rousseff and Temer are very unpopular. A poll last month found that 62% want new elections. But before new elections could occur, both Rousseff and Temer would have to resign or be removed from office.