BRICS fault lines: Pressure growing to impeach Brazil’s President Rousseff

President Dilma Rousseff 3By Mario Sergio Lima, Raymond Colitt and Anna Edgerton

(Bloomberg) — A growing number of legislators in Brazil’s largest party see an impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff as an option to pull the country out of its deepening economic and political crisis.

One-third of the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party in the lower house is working toward impeachment proceedings within a constitutional framework, said Darcisio Perondi, a deputy leader of the party, known as the PMDB. More legislators from the ruling coalition are now inclined to support impeachment, provided a legal argument is found, said a lawmaker from the alliance who asked not to be named because of the official leadership position he holds.

Only a few weeks ago most ruling coalition legislators skirted the issue of impeachment. The shift in attitude comes after Rousseff’s popularity dipped to a new low and a leading figure in her Workers’ Party was arrested on corruption charges. The government on Thursday was defeated on a spending bill in the lower house, hours after two parties abandoned the coalition and Vice President Michel Temer spoke of a “deepening” crisis.

“The political forces are beginning to see the removal of Dilma as a possible solution to the crisis,” said Joao Augusto de Castro Neves, Latin America director at political risk consulting firm Eurasia Group. “But the smoking gun for this not to look like a coup is still missing.”

One of the most serious threats to Rousseff is the expected ruling by auditors this month on allegations her administration used illegal financial maneuvers in 2014 fiscal accounts. Opposition lawmakers have said that a ruling against the government could provide grounds to oust the president. The administration says the practice was common in past governments.

At least two-thirds of the lower house is needed to initiate impeachment hearings. The president would then have to temporarily step down until the Senate or Supreme Court makes a final ruling on impeachment.

In an Aug. 4-5 poll by Datafolha, 66 percent of respondents say Congress should open impeachment proceedings against Rousseff. Her approval rating fell to 8 percent in the poll, and 71 percent said her presidency has been bad or terrible. The disapproval is higher than the same reading for former President Fernando Collor, the only president in Brazil to be impeached, in 1992.

 

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