• Lower house speaker must decide whether to accept petition
  • Impeachment that can lead to president ouster is long process

A group of high-profile lawyers, including a former member of the ruling Workers’ Party, will file a request on Wednesday to begin impeachment proceedings against Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, alleging she continued to doctor fiscal accounts this year.

The petition, which was originally expected Tuesday, is being closely watched by investors and legislators as it has the backing of Brazil’s two largest opposition parties. Lower house President Eduardo Cunha, who declared himself a member of the opposition, has the power to accept the request and thereby begin a protracted legal process. He is facing charges of corruption before the Supreme Court, prompting lawmakers to call for his own resignation.

Eduardo Cunha on Oct. 19
Eduardo Cunha on Oct. 19
Photographer: Evaristo Sa/AFP/Getty Images

A showdown between Cunha and the Rousseff administration has intensified a political crisis that sidetracked her economic agenda, leading to a selloff of Brazilian assets this year. A shrinking economy and growing corruption scandal have driven Rousseff’s approval rating to a record low and emboldened her rivals. The president has likened impeachment attempts to a coup and her supporters say there’s no legal basis to remove Rousseff, who won re-election last year.

Lawyers writing the impeachment request will say Rousseff can be removed from office for manipulating fiscal accounts this year, continuing with financial practices implemented during her previous term that have been already censored by the country’s audit court. Rousseff says she hasn’t done anything wrong.

If Cunha accepts the petition to impeach Rousseff, a special committee made up of all political parties would then meet and issue a recommendation whether hearings should start.

The lower house then votes on the committee’s report. If two-thirds of the deputies back impeachment, hearings would begin in the Senate. In that case, Rousseff would have to temporarily step down and hand over the reins to Vice President Michel Temer. He would remain in power if the Senate impeaches Rousseff.

Cunha meanwhile is dealing with his own struggle for political survival as he faces allegations he accepted bribes and laundered money. An increasing number of lawmakers are calling for him to resign. He said Monday he will stay in office and fight charges that he says are untrue.

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