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Brazil’s impeachment: a how to guide

Brasília, Brazil | AFP

Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff risks being driven from office if the lower house votes in favor of an impeachment trial following Monday’s vote in a special committee.

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.

Runup

A petition to impeach Rousseff, accusing her of fiddling government accounts to mask budget shortfalls, was accepted last year. On March 17 this year, lawmakers formally launched an impeachment commission after procedural obstacles were resolved.

Launch

The committee voted Monday to recommend impeachment. Although non-binding the decision helps set the tone for a crucial vote in the lower house a week later, probably April 17 or 18.

Trial

If fewer than two-thirds of the lower house approve the motion, Rousseff escapes impeachment. If two-thirds approve, the case passes to the Senate.

There, a simple majority of the Senate will be enough to begin a trial. Rousseff will be ordered out of office provisionally for up to six months while the Senate hears evidence.

She would be replaced by her vice president and leading opponent, Michel Temer.

Judgment

After closing arguments in the impeachment trial, senators will vote on whether to remove Rousseff from office. If two-thirds of senators vote to impeach her, she will be out. If not, she can resume her post.

Analysts say the case may take just a few weeks to reach the Senate, but once there the proceedings could take months.

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. Rousseff could also slow things down with challenges in the Supreme Court.

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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