Brazil’s president, Dilma Rousseff, is soon to face an impeachment vote in the nation’s House of Representatives, putting Brazil one step closer to her ouster. Possibly even more destabilizing for the country is one attorney’s efforts to force the legislature to impeach Vice President Michel Temer, as well, as Temer prepares to potentially become head of state.
Rousseff is facing impeachment for violating the nation’s finance laws through the signing of a number of executive decrees her opponents deem illegal. Mariel Márley Marra, an attorney who successfully petitioned the Supreme Court to force the House to impeach Temer, as well, argues that Temer’s signature was also on those decrees, making him equally culpable.
“Rousseff and Michel Temer signed the decrees, at odds with the Annual Budget Law. This is the crime,” he tells BBC. “There is a common body of evidence. This is an obvious rationale [for simultaneous impeachment] for any lawyer who works in the criminal realm like me.”
Brazil’s Supreme Court rejected the demand to hold both impeachment proceedings simultaneously, but did affirm Tuesday that the House should impeach Temer as well as Rousseff on the same accusation. The head of the House, legislator Eduardo Cunha, had previously rejected calls to impeach Temer.
The House of Representatives has responded to the Supreme Court with a scathing rejection of its interloping in what they believe should be legislative matters. “Never, ever, can such an intervention be permitted by another Power of the Republic, attempting to authorize the substitution of itself as competent over the legislative body through a judicial decision,” the statement asserted.
Party politics have much to do with the animosity of those who seek to impeach Rousseff, the head of the Workers’ Party (PT), against the Supreme Court decision. Temer is the leader of the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB), a smaller but also leftist party to which Cunha, the head of the House, belongs. While protests calling for Rousseff to step down have been ongoing – not only for the charges in the impeachment case, but for her potential ties to the ongoing billion-dollar Petrobras corruption scandal – it was the PMDB’s decision to leave Rousseff’s coalition government that gave the impeachment movement its greatest momentum.
Brazil is home to dozens of political parties; no one party can govern without building a coalition of a small number of parties from which to pick its cabinet executives. Rousseff lost her minister of tourism and over 600 PMDB officials who were made to choose between the party or their post under the Workers’ Party coalition. As Temer must remain, in the event of Rousseff’s impeachment, his position was not affected.
A second major coalition member, the center-right Progressive Party (PP), will decide on Wednesday whether to abandon the PT coalition. Legislators freed from coalition responsibilities will be able to vote in favor of impeachment without expecting retribution from their own party.
Sensing the growing movement to remove Rousseff, PT officials are becoming increasingly loud in their attempts to persuade the public not to support the move. Brazil’s attorney general, Jose Eduardo Cardozo, made an impassioned plea against impeachment on Monday, in which he alleged the impeachment process was the equivalent of “rip[ping] up the Constitution.” He asserted, “The impeachment process was compromised from the start and as such it is invalid.”
Rousseff, meanwhile, has announced that she will not begin appointing ministers to her cabinet to replace the PMDB officials until the first impeachment vote proceeds. “We will not touch anything,” she promised. She also addressed a proposal by some within the PMDB to move up national elections to October, which may also result in her ouster. “Tell the House and the Senate first to give up their mandates, and then come talk to me,” she told reporters.