Brazil’s Rousseff calls for referendum on early elections

Brazil’s suspended President Dilma Rousseff is calling for a referendum on whether to hold early elections if she survives removal from office in an impeachment trial that is expected to conclude in August.

“We must consult the population to rebuild a constitutional pact that was broken by the impeachment process,” Rousseff said in an interview aired on Thursday night by the government television channel TV Brasil.

Under the Brazilian electoral timetable, presidential elections are scheduled every four years, with the next due in 2018.

Rousseff’s proposal for early elections, which are not provided for by the Constitution, is seen by many political analysts as a way out of Brazil’s political crisis. Rousseff’s supporters have questioned the legitimacy of her suspension during the Senate trial and replacement by Vice President Michel Temer.

By offering to call new elections if she returns to the presidential palace now occupied by Temer, Rousseff is seeking to sway undecided senators and win a handful of votes she needs to win the trial, the analysts said.

More than a quarter of Brazilians view Temer’s government negatively and a majority want new elections this year, a poll showed this week. The survey also showed that nearly two-thirds of Brazilians support Rousseff’s impeachment.

Rousseff told a group of senators and political allies on Thursday that she was open to the holding of a plebiscite for the country to decide new elections, the Folha de South Paulo newspaper reported.

The leftist leader was suspended on May 12 when the Senate voted 55-22 to put her on trial for allegedly breaking budget laws. To block her conviction and definitive ouster she needs five more votes to have 27, or one-third of the Senate.

A wave of scandals stemming from a corruption investigation at state oil company Petrobras have buffeted Temer’s one-month-old government and weakened the resolve to remove Rousseff of some senators who voted for the impeachment trial.

If Rousseff survives impeachment, she would be able to serve out her term until 2018 though many analysts in Brasilia think she would be too weak to govern and would have to call an early vote.

Temer’s camp has opposed the idea of early elections, which would require a constitutional amendment by Congress.

Business leaders and investors have praised Temer for picking a strong economic team led by former central bank governor Finance Minister Henrique Meirelles to rescue Brazil from a fiscal crisis and the worst recession since the 1930’s.

But his popularity has been undermined by policy reversals and allegations by prosecutors – based on recordings leaked to the media – that members of his Cabinet and the leader of his PMDB party sought to obstruct the investigation into the massive graft scheme at Petrobras.


Author: Hassan Khazaal

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