Rousseff’s impeachment process back on track

Brasilia, May 10

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff’s looming suspension from office was back on track today after the speaker of the lower house of Congress withdrew his decision to annul an impeachment vote against her.

The Senate will vote on Wednesday whether to put Rousseff on trial for breaking budget laws. If, as is widely expected, a simple majority agrees to hold the trial, she will be automatically suspended from office for up to six months.

Vice President Michel Temer would take over as president, and if Rousseff were convicted and removed definitively, he would stay in the post until elections in 2018.

As the prospect grew of Rousseff’s ouster and a potential end to 13 years of rule by her leftist Workers Party (PT), anti-impeachment protesters blocked roads with burning tyres in demonstrations in Sao Paulo, the capital Brasilia and other cities, snarling morning traffic.

The PT and labour unions called for a national strike to resist a “coup” against democracy.

Speaker Waldir Maranhao’s surprise decision on Monday to annul the lower house’s April vote threw Brazilian markets into disarray and threatened to drag out a painful political crisis with a constitutional standoff that could have ended up at the Supreme Court.

Brazil’s currency, the real, strengthened one per cent early today after the speaker’s reversal — a reflection of investor hopes that a more market-friendly government will soon take over the recession-hit country under Temer.

In a statement to the Senate, Maranhao did not cite any reason for backtracking on his decision to annul due to “procedural flaws” the lower house’s April 17 vote. The vote had overwhelmingly recommended that the Senate try Rousseff.

Maranhao, a little known politician before taking over last week after the removal of Eduardo Cunha for obstruction of a corruption investigation, faces expulsion from his center-right Progressive Party, which supports Rousseff’s impeachment.

Senate President Renan Calheiros said on Monday that Maranhao was “playing with democracy” and vowed the Senate would press ahead with Wednesday’s vote.