The Saga continues: The Impeachment Process of Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff (Part 2)
Brazil is going through its harshest economic crisis in decades. Both inflation and unemployment levels are near 10%. Corruption is rampant and many of the economic and social achievements of the first years under the Worker’s Party federal government, which has been in power for 13 years, have dissipated.
Unlike former president Luis Inácio LULA da Silva, who followed a more liberal economic agenda and was lucky to ride a wave of global growth, his successor, President Dilma Rousseff resorted to more interventionist economic measures. As a result, she seems to have lost control of the national finances. Unable to plug the holes of the public budget deficit in the last year of her former mandate, 2014, Ms. Rousseff has been accused of using accounting trickery to cover up her mismanagement, and, now, less than one and a half years into her second mandate she is facing an impeachment process.
The traumatic event of a likely second impeachment of a Brazilian president in 24 years—Fernando Collor, the first popularly elected president following the end of the 20-year military dictatorship was impeached on charges of corruption in 1992—will hopefully teach Brazilian citizens a hard lesson; they must choose better and monitor politicians more firmly.
The impeachment motion, after being approved by the Congress’ Lower House in April, was forwarded to the Senate.
After a session that lasted more than 20 hours, early on the morning of May 12th, two-thirds of the bleary-eyed and exhausted members of the Senate voted to continue investigations into charges that President Rousseff manipulated Brazil’s finances.
A great number of Brazilians woke up early to watch the vote on television. Many of them celebrated the decision, expressing their satisfaction mainly through social media channels.
The decision forces the President to leave office for up to 180 days while the process is ongoing, leading to a trial and a verdict. In the meantime, Ms. Rousseff’s vice-president, Michel Temer, a member of the more centrist Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB), a former ally of the Federal Government’s until a split several months ago, will assume the Presidency.
Not everyone who favors Ms. Rousseff’s impeachment (an estimated 60% of Brazilians) is happy with the fact that her vice-president has replaced her, though. They believe he shares the blame for the same crimes.
It’s unlikely, however, that Ms. Rousseff will be making a comeback, according to seasoned politicians and the press. In any case, she will not be opening the Olympic Games ceremony in Rio this coming August.
With Dilma Rousseff’s suspension, Brazil may enter a new phase. The mere news of a favorable vote for the impeachment process boosted the stock market’s mood. Despite the tough and unpopular decisions Mr. Temer will have to take, chances are Brazil’s economy has already started on its path back to recovery.
Most importantly, Brazilians, although still very polarized, have become much more politically aware and active thanks to recent events. This awareness needs to strengthen during Mr. Temer’s interim mandate and continue afterward. Constant monitoring of politicians and their practices is one key to the success of any democracy. Free social media, being one of the most powerful forces supporting democratic institutions, can be a great help in the process.