Foreign Policy Blogs

Impeachment Should be Legitimized by an Election in Brazil

Former Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff talks with  President Michel Temer at the Planalto presidential palace in Brasilia, March 2, 2016.

In Canada, a country considered one of the least corrupt in the world, there are several scandals taking place involving government funds going to special interest groups. The offense felt by the general public over a pay-for-play system is very apparent. A system where those with influence and money have excessive power in choosing government policies that benefits them or their organization runs against basic democratic values.

It is unacceptable that the wealthy should have special access to political leaders, when average people end up with the bill and years of burdens from bad policies. In many countries there are similar issues, and the public sentiment likely mirrors that of those in my own community. One of the worst cases of this type of corruption is currently taking place in Brazil, and their President will likely be impeached because of it.

There is not a clear legal case for the impeachment of elected Workers Party (PT) leader and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, as the main charge over breaking budget rules is a meek accusation. The Senate hearing is using the budget rules issue as a catalyst for her impeachment, placing the responsibility of an entire corruption scandal involving mostly her PT party as well as other professional political agents on her Presidency.

With mass protests taking place against her government for the last two years and low approval numbers, the Senate seems to be making a political decision on her personally by way of scandals in her PT party. It has been predicted that her ouster as President will be successful, and the rest of her mandate will be taken up by the leader of an opposition party, Mr Temer.

President Rousseff has been fighting for her political career, claiming that this move by the other branches of government is tantamount to a coup. While the separation of powers in democracies does allow for other branches of government to check the power of the executive branch, a clear legal case might not be present in judging Rousseff’s actions personally. While there is no doubt her party is deeply involved in an atrocious corruption scandal, removing the President by means of a weak legal case may cause more political divisions than are required in this type of political scenario.

Rousseff should be aware that while the case against her is as much partisan politics as it is an unclear constitutional process, the extreme corruption that took place under the Petrobras scandal and damage to average Brazilian citizens has delegitimized her PT party greatly. Protests for Dilma and against her may take place several times before the end of the 2018 presidential term of office, but keeping her in office would be an awkward move considering many in her PT party may be removed promptly due to scandals.

Michel Temer, the current President was not elected himself, and the question of his party’s legitimacy without an election will give rise to more divisiveness in Brazil when a strong and legitimate government is needed to clean up politics and the economy.

An election is needed to confirm the right to lead in Brazil. While Temer may take advantage of his two years in power to put in austerity measures, whether they are needed or not, legitimacy in taking such actions should be confirmed by the people of Brazil. While the PT may opt for an election as opposed to impeachment, the reality is that many of the political leaders under scandal will not be returned to government.

As those of us outside of Brazil would want our pay-for-play political leaders removed from positions of power, Brazilians should be able to not only have those political leaders removed once a crime is discovered, but be able to replace them with legitimate alternatives chosen via a direct democratic method.

 

Author

Richard Basas
Richard Basas

Richard Basas, a Canadian Masters Level Law student educated in Spain, England, and Canada (U of London MA 2003 LL.M., 2007), has worked researching for CSIS and as a Reporter for the Latin America Advisor. He went on to study his MA in Latin American Political Economy in London with the University of London and LSE. Subsequently, Rich followed his career into Law focusing mostly on International Commerce and EU-Americas issues. He has worked for many commercial and legal organisations as well as within the Refugee Protection Community in Toronto, Canada, representing detained non-status indivduals residing in Canada. Rich will go on to study his PhD in International Law.

Areas of Focus:
Law; Economics and Commerce; Americas; Europe; Refugees; Immigration

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