This Wednesday, December 2nd, 2015, the Speaker of the federal lower house Chamber of Deputies, Eduardo Cunha, accepted a request for impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff based on arguments of crime of fiscal responsibility. The announcement was made immediately after Workers Party (PT) federal representatives stated they would vote in favor of the impeachment process against Cunha filed with the Chamber of Deputies Ethics Committee. The process against Cunha is based on a petition filed by the Office of the Federal Prosecutor and on investigations by the Federal Police that point to his involvement in a bribery scheme and in money-laundering activities, as well as on the confirmed existence of non-declared bank accounts in Switzerland, as already confirmed by Swiss government officials. Over the last months and weeks, Cunha had been systematically obstructing investigations and maneuvering to halt proceedings in the Ethics Committee.
Early in the evening, President Dilma made a statement in which she expressed her indignation and reaffirmed her high principles and commitment to the laws and public affairs. President Dilma also stated that “the reasons on which this request is based are inconsistent and unfounded. There is not a single illicit act that I have committed. There is no suspicion hanging over me of any misuse of public money, I hold no account abroad; nor have I hidden any personal assets from the public. I have never coerced, or tried to coerce, any institutions or people for the purpose of satisfying my own interests”.
The request for impeachment contends that there was crime of fiscal responsibility due to a delay in transfers by the National Treasury to state-owned banks (the so-called “pedaladas fiscais”, or accounting gimmicks) for the payment of the government’s social programs and to the publishing of orders for the extension of supplementary credits that purportedly had not been authorized by Congress. As the Constitution prohibits impeachment requests for past terms of office from being started, this time the request is based on an alleged violation of the fiscal responsibility law in fiscal 2015. Renowned jurists such as Dalmo Dallari and Celso Antonio Bandeira de Mello have already come to public to express the utter lack of legal basis for the request for the impeachment of the President. In the economic arena, it is worth noting that the National Treasury is a net creditor of the banks. The ministries hold services’ contracts with the banks: On days when the account is negative, credit is issued on behalf of the bank; when it is positive, credit is issued on behalf of the government (an adjustment known as equalization). On the legal level, the Workers Party will file a petition with the Supreme Federal Court to annul Eduardo Cunha’s procedure based on the arguments of abuse of power and misuse of purpose, supported by the fact that the speaker accepted the impeachment request driven solely by personal interests and purposes. Politically, social movements, like Central de Movimentos Populares, the Landless Workers Movement Movimento dos Trabalhadores Sem Terra, and national trade union confederation Central Única dos Trabalhadores, have announced their intention to take to the streets to defend the legitimate mandate granted to President Dilma by the people at the polls. Governors from nine states of the northeastern region (elected by different parties, like the PT, PCdoB, PMDB, PSB, and PSD) have also made a public statement in a joint note against the impeachment thesis.
The step-by-step of the impeachment process
1. Reading of the request to the Chamber and setting up of an ad hoc committee (with 66 federal representatives, proportional to the size of each party delegation).
This step should be taken by next Monday, December 7th.
2. In 48 hours, the Committee is to convene to elect its Chair and Rapporteur.
3. The President will be notified and will be given ten sessions to submit her defense (often, there are three sessions a week, yet it is possible to hold up to five sessions a week should the Monday and Friday sessions have a quorum, thus accelerating the process).
4. The rapporteur of the ad hoc committee is to issue his/her recommendation in up to five sessions by granting or rejecting authorization for the process to continue. The ad hoc committee takes a vote on the rapporteur’s recommendation.
5. The rapporteur’s recommendation is read on the floor and published. Forty-eight hours after its publication, the rapporteur’s opinion will be included in the order of business of the following session day.
6. The rapporteur’s recommendation is discussed and then submitted to the floor of the Chamber of Deputies to be voted. Approval requires 2/3 of votes, or 342 representatives.
7. If the rapporteur’s recommendation is approved, the President must leave office for 180 days (if case is not over within this period, the President goes back to office, without prejudice to the continuity of regular proceedings) and the process is referred to the Senate.
8. Reception by the Senate’s presiding officer, reading in the following session, and setting up of a committee composed of ¼ of the senators (proportional to each party’s delegation).
9. The committee concludes its work by making charges public.
10. Judgment in the Senate, on a previously scheduled day and time, presided over by the Chief Justice of the Federal Supreme Court. Approval of the impeachment requires 2/3 of the votes (54 senators).