Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and Vice President Michel Temer

Brazil faces leadership deficit as Rousseff’s impeachment looms

Brazil is facing both a political and an economic crisis: its president will soon be impeached and its recession grinds forward. There is no obvious visionary leader ready to pull the country out of these doldrums, but whoever finally inherits power will run up against the same political strictures that have limited Brazilian politicians’ options for decades.

Brazil’s “darkest hour,” as The Economist put it, is likely to last some months longer. President Dilma Rousseff will stand trial in the Senate for allegedly violating budget laws – charges she denies. More than two-thirds of the Chamber of Deputies, the National Congress’ lower house, approved a request for impeachment on April 17.

Sometime in mid-May, a special Senate committee will probably accept the request. Ms. Rousseff will be required to step down for the duration of the trial (a maximum of 180 days) and Vice President Michel Temer will serve in her place.

Brazil’s chief justice will preside over the trial, as set out by the country’s constitution. If Ms. Rousseff is acquitted, she regains the presidency. If she is convicted by a vote of at least two-thirds of the 81 senators, Vice President Temer will complete her term, which ends on December 31, 2018.

There is little chance that the Senate will reject the impeachment request. President Rousseff’s popularity is very low (13 percent according to recent polling). Some 61 percent of Brazilians want to see her impeached.

Regardless of the merits of the charges against Ms. Rousseff, most Brazilians consider her responsible for the country’s economic woes. Brazil faces its worst recession in history: gross domestic product is expected to contract by a cumulative 10 percent in 2015 and 2016; unemployment is at 10.2 percent and will hit 13 percent by June; public debt will reach 74 percent of GDP by December.

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 Carlos Eduardo Lins da Silva
The most likely scenario in this unpredictable environment is that Vice President Temer takes over in mid-May, Ms. Rousseff is convicted by the Senate, and he finishes out her term as president
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