Opposition brings down Rousseff, but can it lift Brazil?
18 April 2016, 11:25
Rio de Janeiro-Firing confetti, singing and cheering, Brazilian opposition politicians were in party mood after voting to authorize an impeachment trial of President Dilma Rousseff. But the hangover looks painful.
Sunday's vote by the lower house of Congress to send Rousseff to the Senate for an impeachment trial left her just two steps from being forced out of office.
As early as next month, the Senate could launch impeachment proceedings, at which point Rousseff, only in the second year of her second mandate, would have to step temporarily aside.
She could still survive the ensuing trial, but most analysts say the Senate would surely follow the lower house lead and drive her out -- permanently.
No wonder Rousseff opponents grinned on Sunday as they raised placards up to television cameras reading: "Goodbye sweetie."
The immediate winner is Rousseff's vice president, Michel Temer, who has become her leading opponent and under the constitution would take power the moment a Senate trial started.
Temer clearly sees himself as a president in waiting, even accidentally releasing a recording of himself practicing his first speech to the nation.
But the reality of the top job might not be so attractive.
Deeply unpopular with most Brazilians, the unelected Temer would face a credibility problem.
Analysts say the constitutional lawyer and his PMDB party would find themselves facing a bitter, vengeful opposition if Rousseff were forced out by the Senate.
And that would be before he even tried to address the structural problems at the heart of Brazil's worst recession for decades -- a slide that has transformed Latin America's biggest economy from emerging markets darling into investment horror story.
"The crisis will continue. In fact it will become even more serious because the losing side will use all instruments at its disposal to block the winners. Brazil will wake up worse tomorrow," independent political analyst Andre Cesar told AFP.
Temer has talked of establishing a national unity coalition, but "this will not be easy. It will be a nightmare," Cesar said.
Diego Werneck, at the Getulio Vargas Foundation, a think tank, pointed out that Temer may even find himself fighting to stay in power.
Allies of Rousseff have lodged an impeachment petition against him, alleging that he is just as involved as Rousseff in the allegedly illegal accounting practices that are at the base of the case against her.
Although impeachment proceedings would be unlikely to move quickly -- Temer's close ally Eduardo Cunha is in charge as speaker of the lower house -- they would dog him.
Possibly more seriously, Temer is named along with Rousseff as a target of a case at the Supreme Electoral Court contending that their 2014 election ticket was partly funded by bribe money. In theory, the court could declare the elections void and call new polls, stripping Temer of his post.
No end to crisis
The most immediate hurdle, though, would be governing such a fractured nation.
Rousseff has ended up almost powerless inside her presidential palace as relations with Congress break down and her personal popularity plummets, leading to huge street demonstrations.
Temer, analysts say, would risk some of the same problems.
His PMDB is a mishmash of ideologies and has always played a kingmaking role, not even presenting a presidential candidate since 1994. With potential partners also eying 2018, when the next elections are scheduled, alliances might prove fragile.
Temer's "eventual government will be in a better position than Rousseff's but still with a lot of complications," Werneck said.
Sylvio Costa, who heads the specialist politics website Congresso en Foco, told AFP that Rousseff was nearly sure to go, but that more trouble lies ahead.
"Whoever loses will keep protesting in the streets," he said. "What's certain is that the crisis will not end today."