Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff fought for survival, lobbying congressional deputies behind closed doors on the eve of a vote that could send her to face an impeachment trial in the Senate.
Rousseff, the country’s first female head of state, hit out yesterday at what she calls a “coup” and canceled a planned appearance with demonstrators in the capital Brasilia to focus on trying to win over lawmakers. “She will stay (at her official residence) for the last negotiations for Sunday’s vote,” a presidential advisor told AFP.
The leader of the impeachment drive, Rousseff’s vice-president-turned-rival Michel Temer also switched plans, leaving Sao Paulo to return to Brasilia in a move that local media said indicated a tightening contest.
The opposition needs 342 votes of the 513-seat lower house of Congress, or two thirds, to send Rousseff to the Senate for a trial that could end in her being forced from office. Anything less and Rousseff would defeat the measure.
Latest estimates showed the pro-impeachment camp has already amassed enough support. Folha de Sao Paulo and Estadao dailies both put the number at 347.
However, intense negotiations and the possible pressure from what were expected to be large crowds of demonstrators across Brazil today could still shift momentum in either direction.
Rousseff is accused of illegal accounting maneuvers to mask government shortfalls during her 2014 reelection. She defends her behavior by saying that previous governments used similar measures.
If Rousseff is defeated today, the Senate is expected to vote to open a trial, probably in May, at which point the leftist president would have to stand down for 180 days, while Temer took over. Another two-thirds vote in the Senate would force her to step down.
Even if Rousseff escapes with her presidency, she would preside over a deeply divided country where her government has only 10 per cent approval ratings and the powerful opposition blames her for the worst recession in more than a generation. The scramble by both sides ahead of the vote, which starts at about 1800 GMT, reached a fever pitch yesterday.
Rousseff’s mentor, former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who faces corruption allegations linked to the graft scandal at state oil company Petrobras, told thousands of supporters in Brasilia that nothing could be taken for granted.