By Jorge Rubem Folena de Oliveira
(Constitutional lawyer and political scientist)
The future outcome of any impeachment proceedings against President Rousseff currently remains unknown. In April, Mr. Cunha, the Speaker in the Lower House and initiator of the impeachment process, acted by exercising deliberate and direct influence over his fellow deputies to secure the Lower House vote. Last week, the Supreme Court removed Mr. Cunha from his duties on the basis of his conduct and by doing so, demonstrated its commitment to democracy, upholding the principles underpinning Brazil’s membership of the Venice Commission. Only yesterday, the current speaker of the Lower House, Waldir Maranhao announced that the whole process was as a result flawed and that the Senate should halt proceedings for the Lower House to hold a new vote. Earlier today however, Mr. Maranhao reversed his decision without explanation. It is now therefore likely that the Senate vote on impeachment will take place in the coming days as to whether or not President Rousseff should be put on trial for alleged crimes relating to the budgetary law.
In the Senate, around 50 of the 81 senators have already said that they plan to vote in favour of an impeachment trial, well over the simple majority needed to open the process. However, senators have been declaring their intentions to vote based upon a variety of illegitimate factors, even before the Senate session opens, thereby violating the principle of impartiality. The factors cited include unemployment, a desire to vote against the Workers’ Party, votes in honour of various family members, and even God. Such deputies are clearly failing in their duty to vote on the basis of the legitimacy of the criminal charges and evidence presented to support them.
Even if two thirds of the Senate ultimately vote in favour of putting President Rousseff on trial, the Supreme Court retains a critical duty under Article 86 of the Constitution to make a decision as to whether or not it will “receive” the complaint/charges. Earlier today, President Rousseff’s lawyers said they would appeal to the Supreme Court to annul the impeachment proceedings even before the Senate gathers on Wednesday.
In the event the impeachment process continues and democracy is violated by the unconstitutional dismissal of the current government and its ministry, and replaced by another illegitimate government, (Article 52 of the Constitution), Brazil could suffer severe consequences at an international level, as states may start to legitimately reconsider their relationship with Brazil based upon the utterly chaotic conduct of the past few weeks.
The Federal Supreme Court now has a key role to play in the maintenance of peace and restoration of institutional balance in Brazil. It is up to the justices of the Supreme Court to end the grave political crisis that is engulfing Brazil on a daily basis and thus prevent the State from descending into civil war.
Image supplied by Jorge Rubem Folena de Oliveira