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Dilma Rousseff’s last chance

Can Dilma Rousseff avoid impeachment or will Brazil's first female president be the first to be deposed? A final vote will decide her fate. DW's Astrid Prange reports from Rio de Janeiro.

Can Dilma Rousseff avoid impeachment or will Brazil’s first female president be the first to be deposed? A final vote will decide her fate. DW’s Astrid Prange reports from Rio de Janeiro.
“It’s unlikely that Dilma will return to the presidential palace,” said Paulo Eduardo Gomes, a politician from Niteroi, a city near Rio de Janeiro. “She’s a pawn. She’s going to be sacrificed for her party’s failures, the Worker’s Party PT,” he told DW.

After three years of protests and legal action, the final step of impeachment proceedings against President Dilma Rousseff is set for August 25 and is expected to last six days. Already, 48 of 81 senators have publicly declared they will vote to impeach. Impeachment requires 54 votes.

Can Dilma make a comeback?

The first two days will hear testimony from witnesses for both sides. On August 29, Rousseff herself will have a chance to make a statement before the senate. With it, she hopes to win over those still on the fence. The final vote will take place early on August 31.

Rousseff is accused of mishandling public funds for her 2014 electoral campaign. On August 9, 59 of the 81 senators voted for Rousseff to stand trial for these alleged abuses. This created the legal basis for impeachment.

The potential ouster of Brazil’s first female presence is dividing not only its society, but also its politicians. “What crime did Dilma commit? Those implicating her are themselves a part of the alleged corruption,” the 65-year-old Gomes said, himself a member of the left-wing party, PSOL.

Senator Katia Abreu’s attitude toward the situation is particularly noteworthy. The former agriculture minister is part of the conservative Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMBD) that pushed for impeachment. But Abreu is actually against it. “A president elected by a majority of the people should not be impeached without evidence,” she wrote in an op-ed for the newspaper, Folha de Sao Paulo.

Unexpected alliances

Abreu points to the senate’s June 27 conclusion that Rousseff was not involved in the decision to divert public funds for her campaign. A month later, the Federal Prosecutor’s Office requested the investigation be filed away.

Even if the legal arguments for impeachment are weak, political dissatisfaction with the Brazilian president remains strong. “Without a doubt, impeachment is a sure thing,” said Eduardo Braga, the former energy minister who voted against her. “Dilma can’t govern without a majority. She has to accept her situation with humility.”

In hopes of winning public support, Vice President Michel Temer (PMDB) is, among other things, heralding the success of the Olympic Games in Rio. Writing in the O Globo newspaper, he promised to “support the huge projects by the Ministry of Sports and to transform make Brazil an Olympic power.”

Vice president in a hurry

Temer already views himself as Rousseff’s successor, jabbing her in his article. “We will work to overcome all the challenges and restrictions that have impeded us in recent years,” he wrote. “And one thing is certain: We will succeed.”

Behind the scenes the acting president is already planning his inauguration, and in haste: He would like to attend the G20 summit from September 4 to 5 in Hangzhou, China, as head of state, which won’t be possible if the impeachment vote is delayed.

Temer must be patient, however. The result of the vote won’t be in until the overnight hours into August 31. Four senators remain undecided and another 10 won’t make their decision public.

The last presidential impeachment trial was against Fernando Collor de Mello. He resigned on December 29, 1992, in a last-minute effort to halt the vote. The question is: Will Dilma Rousseff follow his example?

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