Brazil's lower house annuls Rousseff impeachment vote

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The acting speaker of the lower house of Brazil's Congress on Monday announced a decision to nullify the chamber's vote for an impeachment process against President Dilma Rousseff.

Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff reacts during a signing ceremony for new universities at Planalto Palace, in Brasilia, Brazil on May 9, 2016. [Photo/Xinhua]

Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff reacts during a signing ceremony for new universities at Planalto Palace, in Brasilia, Brazil on May 9, 2016. [Photo/Xinhua]

However, the Senate decided to move forward and vote on Wednesday as planned.


Waldir Maranhao, taking over as acting speaker of Chamber of Deputies last week, accepted an injunction filed last week by Brazil's Attorney General Jose Eduardo Cardozo who said there were irregularities in the lower house's voting session on April 17.

In a news release, Maranhao listed several procedural flaws that comprised the voting results: the president's defense did not have the chance to speak during the voting session, hindering the right of defense.

Also, some political parties made the decision to support the impeachment or go against it, rather than letting representatives vote based on their own will, he added.

In his decision, Maranhao said the Senate should return the case to the House, so it could hold a new vote on the impeachment proposal.

This latest twist in Brazil's opposition-led impeachment drive has led to confusion as to how the process would proceed.

After the April lower house vote, the impeachment case was passed to the Senate, which would vote whether to put the president on trial over charges of breaking budget laws in a session scheduled for Wednesday.

Maranhao was made lower house speaker last week, after his predecessor Eduardo Cunha was separated from his post by a Supreme Court decision, marking the first time in Brazilian history that the judiciary has ordered such a measure.

Cunha, who is under investigation by the House Ethics Committee after it came to light he had squirreled away millions of dollars in undeclared Swiss bank accounts, had used his influence to coerce other lawmakers to vote against Rousseff and to obstruct justice in his investigation, the court said.

Cunha is believed to be pursuing impeachment as a means of political revenge, after Rousseff's ruling Workers' Party refused to shield him from the Ethics Committee probe.


President Rousseff on Monday called on her supporters to remain wary after she heard the lower house impeachment vote against her had been annulled.

"I just heard that ... I can't measure the consequences, so please act cautiously. We are facing a state of affairs fraught with cunning and guile," warned the embattled Rousseff.

Rousseff was at a ceremony announcing the creation of five federal universities when the news broke on the mobiles of those in attendance, leading cabinet members, lawmakers, educators and students at the event to cry out in celebration.

But Rousseff urged her allies to not let their guard down, saying her political opponents' push to impeach her was not over.

"A fierce battle, filled with difficulties" still lies ahead, said Rousseff. "I urge you, members of congress, and all of us, to stay calm and stand up to it. There will be a fight, and a good deal of struggle."

"More than ever, we must now fight against ... this process that is tantamount to a coup," said Rousseff.


The nullification of the lower house vote sparked confusion about the impeachment process, since the next step was for the Senate to vote Wednesday on the motion to impeach Rousseff.

Hours after Maranhao's announcement, head of the Senate, Renan Calheiros, affirmed that the Senate will move forward to vote on Rousseff's impeachment case as planned on Wednesday, despite a sudden lower house about-face.

The lower house reversal, announced just two days before the Senate is to vote, "is an untimely decision," said Calheiros, and as such "cannot be accepted."

Accepting the lower house's decision to nullify its April 17 vote in favor of the impeachment drive would only serve to "delay the process," said Calheiros.

"It is not up to the president of the Senate to say whether the process is just or unjust, it is the decision of the plenary, of all of the senators," he added.

Meanwhile, Brazil's Attorney General Jose Eduardo Cardozo confirmed at a press conference that the lower house must hold a new vote on whether to subject Rousseff to an impeachment trial.

However, the opposition can also appeal Maranhao's decision at the Supreme Court.

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