BRAZIL’s Senate voted on Thursday to put leftist President Dilma Rousseff on trial in a historic decision brought on by a deep recession and a corruption scandal that will now confront her successor, Vice President Michel Temer.
With Rousseff to be suspended during the Senate trial for allegedly breaking budget rules, the centrist Temer will take the helm of a country that again finds itself mired in political and economic volatility after a recent decade of prosperity.
According to Reuters, the 55-22 vote ends more than 13 years of rule by the left-wing Workers Party, which rose from Brazil’s labor movement and helped pull millions of people out of poverty before seeing many of its leaders tainted by corruption investigations.
Fireworks rang out in cities across Brazil after the vote at the end of a 20-hour session in the Senate. Police briefly clashed with pro-Rousseff demonstrators in Brasilia during the vote, but the country was calm early Thursday, with scattered celebrants in São Paulo and other cities draping themselves in Brazil’s green, yellow and blue flag.
Rousseff, a 68-year-old economist and former member of a Marxist guerrilla group who was the country’s first woman president, is unlikely to be acquitted in a trial that could last as long as six months.
The scale of her defeat on Thursday showed the opposition already has the support it needs to reach a two-thirds majority required to convict Rousseff and remove her definitively from office.
“It is a bitter though necessary medicine,” opposition Senator Jose Serra, tipped to become foreign minister under Temer, said during the marathon debate. “Having the Rousseff government continue would be a bigger tragedy. Brazil’s situation would be unbearable.”
Early Thursday, a Temer aide said the incoming government would announce a series of austerity measures to help reduce a massive budget deficit.
Temer plans to appoint Henrique Mereilles, a former central bank president and banking executive who is popular with foreign investors, as finance minister after taking office during the day, added the adviser.
Senate Speaker Renan Calheiros said Rousseff would be formally notified of her suspension on Thursday morning, after which she would leave Brasilia’s Planalto presidential palace. As suspended head of state, she can continue to live in her official residence, have a staff and use an Air Force plane.
Rousseff, who has denied any wrongdoing and has called the impeachment process a “coup,” was expected to make a brief statement, aides said. She would later address a rally of supporters accompanied by her mentor, Workers Party founder and former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
Rousseff dismissed her cabinet, including the sports minister, who is in final preparations for the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in August, Brazil’s Official Gazette showed. The central bank governor, who has ministerial rank, was not included in the decree.
Temer, 75, a constitutional scholar who spent decades in Brazil’s Congress, now faces the challenge of restoring economic growth and calm at a time when Brazilians, increasingly polarized, are questioning whether their institutions can deliver on his promise of stability.