Brazilian Senate votes to impeach President Dilma Rousseff, suspending her from office for a period of up to 180 days, during which Vice President Michel Temer will assume as acting president.
Of the 78 senators present at the 20-hour, all-night session, 55 voted for Ms. Rousseff’s impeachment, while 22 voted against it. Only a simple majority was needed for proceedings to continue. The trial will take place in the Senate and will be overseen by Chief Justice Ricardo Lewandowski. A two-thirds majority is needed to permanently remove the president from office.
The Senate vote took place after the lower house authorized it to begin impeachment proceedings. In the house, 367 lawmakers backed her impeachment, while 137 voted against it, and seven abstained. The amount of pro-impeachment votes far surpassed the required two-thirds majority.
President Rousseff has been charged with breaking fiscal and budget laws. This provides the judicial basis for her impeachment. Impeachment in Brazil, however, also has a significant political component. During her trial, senators will consider not only the charges, but also the entire political context.
Ms. Rousseff has a complicated relationship with Congress as well as very low popular approval ratings. Several members of her cabinet and party have been implicated in major corruption scandals and Brazil is in its worst recession since 1929. There has been strong public pressure for her ousting, including the largest street protests in Brazilian history.
The political climate in Brazil has been tense since at least the 2014 elections, which Ms. Rousseff and Mr. Temer won by a very narrow margin. Once reelected after an aggressive, populist campaign that painted an airbrushed picture of Brazilian economic reality, Ms. Rousseff adopted several of the measures she had demonized the opposition for wanting to adopt, complicating her relationship within her own support base and eroding her popularity among voters.
The Rousseff-Temer ticket is also under investigation by the TSE (Tribunal Superior Eleitoral, or Supreme Electoral Court) for having used money from illegal sources to fund their reelection campaign. If found guilty, new elections are to be held. These are to be either direct or indirect, depending on when the annulment takes place.
Ms. Rousseff’s party, the PT (Partido dos Trabalhadores, or Workers Party), has been in power since 2003, when ex-metalworker and union leader Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva first assumed as president.
Image source: Geraldo Magela/Agência Senado