Brazil’s lower house has voted to approve impeachment proceedings against President Dilma Rousseff over allegations that she manipulated government accounts to benefit her campaign. The motion now goes to the Senate for further approvals.
Lawmakers voted in favor of the motion in a 367-137 vote, well more than the 342 votes that were required. It will now head to the Senate where it needs the approval of at least 41 senators to suspend Rousseff and put her on trial, during which Vice President Michel Temer would take over.
The hours-long vote, during which each member of parliament was able to briefly speak to make her or his vote known, was broadcast on major TV networks across Brazil. Large screens were erected in major cities where thousands of pro- and anti-impeachment protesters had gathered.
Rousseff, who has been president since 2011, is said to have juggled public funds in order to support her 2014 re-election. Opponents allege that funds from state banks allowed Rousseff to cover budget shortfalls and in turn created the appearance of an improved economic performance, which boosted her chances for a second term.
The Federal Court of Accounts, which is also known as TCU, unanimously ruled against Rousseff in October 2015, saying her government had manipulated its accounts in 2014 to disguise a widening fiscal deficit. Though the ruling was not legally binding it further hurt the president’s image.
Despite the criticism, Rousseff has continued to deny any wrongdoing, saying all of her actions were legal and were common practice in previous administrations. She also slammed the impeachment proceedings as being tantamount to a coup d’etat.
Despite Sunday’s overwhelming vote for impeachment, more than half of those voting are themselves under investigation for corruption, fraud, electoral crimes, or other allegations, according to Brazilian watchdog Congresso em Foco.
Congressman Paulo Maluf, who has been besieged by his own graft scandals in the past, supported the president’s impeachment, telling the New York Times: “I’m against all the dubious horse-trading this government does.”
With the motion having passed the lower house of Congress, the proposed impeachment proceedings now head to the Senate, where a simple majority is needed to start a Senate trial. Vice President Michel Temer would take over as acting president during the trial, which could take up to 180 days, before a final decision on impeachment is made.
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