Impeaching a Brazilian President Is Complicated: a Quick Guide

Lower house speaker Eduardo Cunha on Dec. 2 accepted a request to start impeachment proceedings against Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff. Backed by leading opposition parties, the petition alleges she doctored fiscal accounts this year and last, and illegally financed her re-election. The president denies wrongdoing and her allies are challenging the proceedings before the Supreme Court.

Cunha’s decision sets in motion a protracted process that involves several votes in Congress and potentially results in Rousseff’s removal from office. This is what it may look like:

  • The lower house now creates a committee comprised of representatives from all political parties to evaluate and recommend whether to accept the allegations made against the president. Parties on Dec. 7 are scheduled to start forming the committee, which will have as many 66 members. The president has 10 sessions to defend herself before the committee, which then has has at least five sessions to make a recommendation.

  • The committee’s recommendation goes to the house floor for a vote. If impeachment is backed by two-thirds of the house, or 342 lawmakers, official impeachment hearings will then move to the Senate, which will vote whether to impeach the president.

  • As deliberations in the Senate start, President Rousseff is temporarily removed from office and Vice President Michel Temer steps in. The Senate needs support from two-thirds of its 81 members to impeach the president and terminate her mandate. She would be banned from public office for eight years.

  • If discussions in the Senate last more than 180 days without a decision, the president resumes office.
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