Brazil New Election Calls Grow as Crisis Snares Vice President

With political turmoil engulfing much of Brazil’s leadership, a proposal for new presidential elections this year is beginning to gain traction.

A Supreme Court Justice on Tuesday ruled that Vice President Michel Temer should face impeachment proceedings just like President Dilma Rousseff. Judge Marco Aurelio Mello said Lower House chief Eduardo Cunha had overstepped his authority by throwing out the impeachment request against Temer in 2015. The full Supreme Court must still ratify Mello’s decision, which Cunha appealed.

The ruling may lead to a potential showdown between the Supreme Court and Congress. It also highlights how Temer may be just as vulnerable as Rousseff, deepening a crisis that has exacerbated a recession and left investors wondering who will govern Latin America’s largest nation.

“Brazilians aren’t happy with the choices out there, they want a voice in who will lead the country,” said David Fleischer, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Brasilia. “It’s not easy to get approved but it could be done.”

Senator Valdir Raupp of the PMDB party, the country’s largest, on Monday proposed for a presidential vote to coincide with municipal elections in October. Former environment minister Marina Silva, who placed third in the 2014 presidential race, on Tuesday endorsed a proposal to bring forward general elections from 2018.

“Neither Dilma, nor Temer. New elections are the solution,“ read a banner at the rally of Marina Silva’s party.

While two-thirds of those polled in a March 17-18 Datafolha opinion survey say they favor Rousseff’s impeachment, only 16 percent believe a Temer administration would be good or great. In a rare front-page editorial published over the weekend, newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo called on both Rousseff and Temer to resign, arguing that the vice president also lacked sufficient popular support to govern.

Government supporters have long argued that if Rousseff is found guilty of having broken financial responsibility laws, her vice president must also go on similar grounds. Indeed, the request to oust Temer argues he broke the law by signing spending decrees without authorization from Congress. The vice president’s press office denied wrongdoing and said that his conduct was supported by a report from a prosecutor with the country’s top federal audit court.

Temer said on Tuesday he will temporarily step aside as head of the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party, or PMDB. Rousseff’s predecessor and mentor Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva accused him over the weekend of trying to orchestrate a coup by pushing for Rousseff’s impeachment.

Rousseff won re-election in 2014 by a narrow margin over opposition leader Senator Aecio Neves in a run-off vote. Since then a corruption scandal involving kickbacks at state-run oil company Petrobras and the worst recession in over a century have pushed her approval ratings to near record lows.

On Tuesday Rousseff said she neither accepts nor rejects the idea of bringing forward presidential elections. "Convince the Chamber and the Senate to give up their mandates and then you can come back and talk to me," Rousseff told reporters in Brasilia when asked about the proposal.

The lower house is expected to vote on whether to oust Rousseff this month. If 342 of 513 lawmakers see grounds for her removal, the case goes to the Senate. Opposition parties say she masked budget deficits, financed her re-election with graft money and is responsible for corruption at Petroleo Brasileiro SA.

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