Battle heats up for last votes to seal Brazil’s Rousseff impeachment fate

The members of the impeachment committee vote on the fate of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff at the National Congress in Brasilia on April 11, 2016.  A congressional committee on Monday recommended impeachment of Rousseff, setting the stage for a crucial vote in the lower house to decide whether she should face trial. / AFP PHOTO / EVARISTO SA

Brasília / AFP

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff’s fate rested on Tuesday on the loyalties of the last 100 or so congressional deputies yet to declare how they will vote in a looming impeachment showdown.
In a ruthless and complex contest, supporters and opponents of Brazil’s first female president raced to amass the magic number that will make history when the lower house of Congress votes in a week’s time. A congressional committee voted late Monday in a non-binding measure to approve impeachment. It gave a taste of the bruising struggle, with deputies yelling and coming close to blows in a day-long debate.
The full house is expected to start voting on Sunday or the following Monday.
This time, a two thirds majority, or 342 deputies, will be needed to send Rousseff’s case to the Senate for impeachment trial. Anything less and Rousseff—accused of fiddling accounts to mask the dire state of the government budget during her 2014 reelection—will have won.
The latest survey of the 513 deputies in the lower house by Estadao daily on Monday showed 298 in favor, still short of 342. The count showed 119 opposing impeachment.
That left the result in the hands of the 96 deputies still undecided or not stating a position.
After winning Monday’s skirmish in the committee—where only a simple majority was required to win—opponents of Rousseff declared they were on a roll.
“It was a victory for the Brazilian people,” said opposition deputy Jovair Arantes, predicting that the result would carry with “strong” pro-impeachment momentum into the full chamber’s vote. But pro-government deputy Silvio Costa said he was also confident. “The opposition is very arrogant” after Monday’s committee victory, he said, noting that past presidents of Brazil have usually struggled to get even the 308 votes needed for constitutional amendments.
If the lower house does approve Rousseff’s impeachment, the case goes to the Senate.
If the Senate then confirms it will take the case, Rousseff would have to step down for up to 180 days while a trial was held. Her vice president, Michel Temer, who has gone over to the opposition, would take over the reins of the presidency.
Finally, if the Senate voted by a two thirds majority to depose Rousseff, Temer, a former ally turned opponent of Rousseff, would remain president.

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