Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff just lost a crucial impeachment vote in congress

Reality check.
Reality check.
Image: AP Photo/Eraldo Peres
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Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff is a step closer to being ousted from office after lawmakers in the country’s lower house of the parliament overwhelmingly voted to impeach her, the latest turn in the country’s deepest political crisis in recent memory.

The vote on Sunday (April 17) came after two days of raucous proceedings in parliament, and protests by supporters on both sides. Rousseff needed 172 votes out of 513 to derail the impeachment process, but wasn’t able to muster enough support.

The case now goes to the senate. If that body approves to go forward with impeachment through a simple majority, Rousseff would be forced to step down while the process unfolds. If two thirds of the senate votes to remove her, vice president Michel Temer would take her post.

Rousseff, who belongs to the Partido dos Trabalhadores, or PT, is accused of fudging the national budget to make its deficit appear smaller. But her unpopularity and that of her party stems more broadly from the dismal state of the Brazilian economy and the country’s widest-ever corruption probe, dubbed Lava Jato, or Car Wash.  Several PT politicians, including former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, have been implicated in it.

The majority of Brazilians, 63%, give Rousseff’s government “terrible” ratings, and 61% think she should be removed from office, according to an April survey by polling firm Datafolha (link in Portuguese.) Only a slightly smaller percentage, 58%, favor a Temer impeachment, a possibility opened earlier this month when a Supreme Court judge ordered congress (paywall) to consider a request for a trial against the vice president for the same reasons as Rousseff.  As vice-president, Temer was also involved in the budget process.

Some analysts question whether a change in government will do much to improve Brazil’s situation. Temer’s party, the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party, or PMDB by its acronym in Portuguese, hasn’t been untouched by corruption scandals. Eduardo Cunha, who leads the lower house of parliament and has been driving impeachment efforts against Rousseff, is facing money-laundering and corruption charges (paywall) himself. Temer could also eventually face impeachment for the same reasons as Rousseff.

If Temer assumes the presidency, which could happen as early as mid-May, he also will have to contend with wide public discontent with government and politicians, as well as potentially damaging revelations for his party from the Lava Jato probe, as the geopolitical analysts at Eurasia Group observed in a recent research note. The consulting firm puts the risk of Temer not finishing his term at 35%, were he to replace Rousseff.