Supporters of Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff fill the lobby of Planalto presidential palace in Brasilia. Photo / AP
The impeachment process against Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff
was abruptly halted after the leader of Brazil’s Lower House agreed to annul last month’s vote by legislators to put her on trial.
The surprise announcement came just ahead of an impeachment vote in Brazil’s Senate on Thursday that was likely to suspend Rousseff from office.
Congressman Waldir Maranhão, the interim speaker of Brazil’s chamber of deputies, said in a statement that he decided to accept a request by Attorney-General José Cardozo to annul the April 17 vote to put Rousseff on trial, citing procedural irregularities. Maranhão said MPs should not have announced their votes in advance, and should not have been told how to vote by party leaders.
“For these reasons I annulled the session….and decided that a new session should take place,” Maranhão said, adding that he’d asked the president of Brazil’s Senate to return the impeachment measure to the Lower House for a new vote.
But the head of the Senate, Renan Calheiros, said he had rejected the decision and that a vote in the Upper House on whether to put Rousseff on trial would continue as scheduled.He did not set a date, but said the vote would take place within five legislative sessions.
Maranhão’s move seemed to whipsaw the entire country, including Rousseff.
In a speech today, she too seemed confused about the meaning of the decision. “I don’t know the consequences,” she said to a cheering crowd of supporters. “We have to find out what’s happening.”
Maranhão became acting Speaker of the House last week after Eduardo Cunha, the elected Speaker, was suspended by Brazil’s Supreme Court. Cunha is accused of corruption by the same court.
About 70 per cent of Brazilian deputies voted last month against Rousseff, so dozens of legislators would have to change their minds about her impeachment in order for a future vote to break her in her favour.
That seems unlikely, so Maranhão’s decision may only end up stalling Rousseff’s impeachment, and would do little to bring stability to her Government.
“Brazil is in political intensive care, at the peak of an ethical and institutional crisis,” said Claudio Lamachia, president of the Brazilian Bar Association.
“The Brazilian Bar Association is very worried about the decision taken by the interim Speaker of the House,” he said.
“This sort of action appeases the momentary interests of some political groups, but ignores the legitimate decisions already taken.”
Opposition deputies and government members argue with each other during a session of the impeachment committee at the chamber of deputies in Brasilia on March 31, 2016. (AFP photo)
The acting speaker of the lower house of Brazil’s Congress has annulled last month’s vote on impeachment, delaying the process against embattled President Dilma Rousseff.
Waldir Maranhao, who took on last week as Brazil’s acting Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, issued the order on Monday, preventing the Senate from voting on the impeachment which was launched in April after endorsement by house members.
Maranhao said in his surprise order that a new vote should take place on whether to impeach Rousseff, adding that there were procedural flaws in the April 17 vote in the chamber that endorsed impeachment charges against Rousseff. The speaker said in his news
release that the Senate should return the process to the lower house.
On Friday, a Senate Committee recommended before the vote, which had been planned for Wednesday, that Rousseff should be put on trial for breaking budget laws.
It was not clear whether the full chamber or Brazil’s Supreme Court could overturn the shock order by Maranhao.
Markets, however, acted negatively to the news and fell sharply.
Rousseff reacted to the news, urging her supporters to cautiously “defend democracy.”
“I don’t know the consequences. Please be cautious,” Rousseff said when she interrupted a speech and said she’d just got unconfirmed news of her impeachment hitting a roadblock.
Brazil has been the scene of a major political turmoil over the past months, with embattled Rousseff intensively fighting for her political survival against opposition congressmen, who aggressively seek her ouster, saying she illegally manipulated government budget accounts during her 2014 reelection battle. Rousseff has denied any wrongdoing and keeps calling the charges and the impeachment motion as an attempted coup against her legitimate government.
The order on Monday could prevent a major power vacuum in Brazil as Rousseff would face a suspension of up to six months if the impeachment had passed the Senate.
Maranhao became acting house speaker just last week, replacing Eduardo Cunha, the long-serving speaker and the architect of the controversial impeachment drive, who himself was forced by the Supreme Court to stand down over corruption charges.