The lower chamber of the Brazilian parliament has voted to impeach the country’s first female president, Dilma Rousseff.
President Rousseff has been under pressure to resign after it emerged that she deliberately manipulated government accounts to give the country good economic standing when the economy is actually facing crisis. It is believed the manipulation of the accounts deceived many people during her re-election as president in 2014.
Opposition members and anti-corruption activists have also accused Ms Rousseff of presiding over a corrupt government. Senior figures in the governing Workers’ Party, including former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, have been fingered in a massive corruption scandal in the country’s petroleum giant, Petrobras.
Rousseff has consistently denied any wrongdoing. She said the impeachment process being launched against her amounts to a coup. Before the crucial vote in Congress, Ms Rousseff urged the house to vote against the process, accusing the opposition of trying to oust her undemocratically.
But members of the house accepted none of President Rousseff’s lamentations. On late Sunday, 367 of the 513 members in the house voted in favor of the impeachment process against her. The vote in favor of the impeachment process needed a total of 342 members, which is two-thirds of the lower house. This means the yes vote exceeded the total number of members needed to impeach Rousseff.
With this victory for the opposition and anti-corruption campaigners, the motion will now go to the upper house (the Senate), which is expected to suspend Ms Rousseff next month while it carries out a formal trial of her outright removal from office as the president of the country.
Below is a diagram, sourced from the BBC, that illustrates how the impeachment process of Brazil works. Reporters who monitored the vote in towns and cities across Brazil, report that there were wild jubilations when the 342nd member voted in favor of the impeachment of the president.
The parliamentary session was watched by millions of people in the country. In some cities, giant screens were mounted so people could watch the proceedings on the streets. In total, 367 voted in favor of impeaching the president. There were seven abstentions and two absences. 137 members voted against the impeachment.
After the vote, the governing Workers’ Party said it will to continue to defend Ms Rousseff in the streets and in the Senate.
President Rousseff supporters—wearing red, and looking very disappointed—said many of the congressmen who voted to impeach their leader have also been accused of similar crimes. In the capital Brasilia, police erected a huge wall to separate government and anti-government supporters. Observers say the wall represents the division in the country.
If the Senate impeaches Ms Rousseff, Vice-President Michel Temer will take over as interim president. But Mr Temer is also facing impeachment proceedings over the same allegations as Ms Rousseff.
The lower house speaker, Eduardo Cunha, who is second in line to replace Rousseff, is also being investigated over allegations of taking multi-million-dollar bribes.
Next in line to replace Rousseff is Renan Calheiros, head of the Senate. Mr Calheiros is also under investigation for his alleged connection with a massive corruption scandal in Petrobras.
BBC reports that all three men are from the PMDB, the largest party in the coalition government. Since the impeachment process began, all three abandoned Ms Rousseff, supporting the impeachment.
Ms Rousseff has openly accused Mr Temer of being behind the plot to oust her. Mr Telmer, Calheiros and Cunha have denied the allegations leveled against them.
Political commentators in Brazil say Ms Rousseff disempowered the country’s private sector, and was also arrogant with Congress. Her economic policies therefore became nothing to write home about, culminating in the current economic recession of Brazil. These factors have made her popularity dwindle heavily since the impeachment process began.
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