Brasilia: Brazil’s Supreme Court on Wednesday denied a last-ditch appeal by President Dilma Rousseff’s administration against impeachment proceedings in the Senate, which is to vote in the coming hours on whether to try her for violating budget laws.
Judge Teori Zavascki denied the appeal by the office of the solicitor general, which argued that the impeachment process was flawed from the outset and should be halted.
Solicitor General Jose Eduardo Cardozo maintained that in December the then-speaker of the lower house, Eduardo Cunha, had acted out of revenge in accepting the opposition’s request to open impeachment proceedings against the president.
He said Cunha, a political enemy of Rousseff’s who was suspended last week by the Supreme Court over corruption allegations, made the decision after the ruling coalition denied him the votes to block an ethics investigation that could lead to his ouster.
Cunha faces charges of obstructing investigations into allegations that he hid some $5 million in bribes in secret bank accounts in Switzerland.
Zavascki, however, said there was no way to legally prove that Cunha’s actions had overstepped the bounds of legitimate political opposition and thus invalidated the impeachment process.
The justice added that Cunha’s actions received the ample backing of other lower-house lawmakers and that it was implausible to conclude that the initial impetus he gave to the process “had the power to contaminate all the other decisions of his colleagues”.
The lower house voted in favour of impeachment last month and sent the process to the Senate.
Despite Zavascki’s ruling, Sen. Lindbergh Farias, one of Rousseff’s staunchest supporters in the upper house, said on Wednesday that her administration would file another appeal with the Supreme Court to try to block a possible impeachment trial.
On Tuesday, the president of Brazil’s Senate, Renan Calheiros, denied a petition by the ruling Workers Party, or PT, to postpone an impeachment vote in the upper house until the Supreme Court could rule on the request for an injunction by the office of the solicitor general.
An impeachment trial is considered highly likely because it would require the approval of just 41 of Brazil’s 81 senators, or a simple majority. Some 50 senators have said they will vote for a trial, according to surveys published in the media.
Rousseff would then be forced to step down during its duration — up to 180 days — and be replaced by Vice President Michel Temer, a pro-business former ally turned foe.
The president would return to office if acquitted, but if she is convicted on charges she purposely delayed the repayment of loans from state-owned banks and carried out other fiscal maneuvers in 2014 and 2015 to disguise the size of the budget deficit then Temer would serve out her term, which is due to expire on January 1, 2019.
The Senate impeachment session kicks off on Wednesday but may not conclude until the wee hours of Thursday because each of Brazil’s 81 senators will have up to 15 minutes to speak prior to the vote.