Impeachment in Brazil: a how-to guide

  • AFP, Brasília
  • Updated: Apr 15, 2016 14:30 IST
Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff (R) risks being driven from office if the lower house votes in favour of an impeachment trial this Sunday. (Reuters Photo)

Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff risks being driven from office if the Lower House votes in favour of an impeachment trial this Sunday.

These are the main stages in the crisis, which comes on top of a deep recession in Latin America’s biggest economy, as it prepares to host the Olympic Games in August in Rio de Janeiro.


Controversial lower house Speaker Eduardo Cunha opened the impeachment saga by accepting a petition from a group of lawyers last December.

They accused Rousseff of illegally juggling government accounts and taking loans in order to mask the depth of government shortfalls during her 2014 re-election campaign.

Ironically, many politicians, including Cunha, are snared in separate criminal corruption probes linked to a vast embezzlement scheme at state oil company Petrobras.

Rousseff denies the charges and says the impeachment drive is a “coup” plotted by Cunha and Vice-President Michel Temer.


On March 17 this year, lawmakers formally launched an impeachment commission after procedural obstacles were resolved.

The committee voted on April 11 to recommend impeachment. Although non-binding, that decision set the tone for a crucial vote this Sunday.

Then in the early hours of Friday, the Supreme Court rejected a last-ditch attempt by Rousseff to have the process halted.


Lower-house lawmakers on Friday begin debate leading up to the vote, with Rousseff’s defense and the opposition as well as leaders of the various parliamentary blocs due to speak.

The debate continues on Saturday with closing statements on Sunday afternoon before the vote. The result is expected to be known late on Sunday evening in Brasilia, after all 513 deputies have spoken into the microphone to cast their vote.

Latest counts by big Brazilian newspapers indicate the impeachment side could win.


If fewer than two-thirds of the lower house approve the motion, Rousseff escapes impeachment. She has promised to forge a compromise with her rivals if she is cleared.

But if two-thirds of the lower house -- 342 lawmakers -- approve it, the case passes to the Senate.

A simple majority of the 81 Senate members will be enough to begin a trial. Since the political makeup of the Senate is similar to that of the lower house, the Senate is expected to back impeachment if the lower house has already done so.

If an impeachment trial is launched, Rousseff will be ordered out of office provisionally for up to six months while the Senate hears evidence.

She would be replaced during the trial by Temer, the vice-president.


After closing arguments in the impeachment trial, senators will vote on whether to remove Rousseff from office.

If two-thirds of the Senate -- 54 members -- vote to impeach her, she will be out. Temer would take her place until the end of her mandate in 2018.

If fewer than 54 Senators vote to impeach her, Rousseff can resume her post.

Road bumps

If the Senate launches an impeachment trial, it could be under way as Brazil hosts the Olympic Games in Rio from August 5 to 21.

The political crisis engulfing Rousseff and her allies such as predecessor Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has sparked angry street protests which threaten to heat up over the coming months.

Lula himself is awaiting a Supreme Court ruling on whether he can join Rousseff’s Cabinet, partly shielding him from corruption charges brought by a lower court.

And while the political paralysis in Brasilia deepens, nothing is being done to address Brazil’s tough recession.

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