Brazilian parliament's lower house comfortably approves a motion to impeach President Dilma Rousseff
The motion now goes before the Senate, which will investigate before voting on it
A long investigatory process will be undertaken by a specially-convened committee
If all goes according to plan, Rousseff should learn of her fate by the end of 2016
A total of 367 lawmakers in the Brazilian parliament’s lower house voted to impeach Dilma Rousseff, the country’s first female president, comfortably more than the two-thirds majority required by law.
It’s been a tumltuous process so far, with mass pro- and anti-government protests dividing the country, and mayhem breaking out in Congress ahead of the vote.
It’s not the first time an impeachment process has made it this far in Brazil. In 1992, proceedings were brought against then-President Fernando Collor de Mello, who was eventually pressured into resigning.
So what happens next?
The impeachment motion will next go to the country’s Senate. If a majority approves it there, Rousseff will have to step down for 180 days to defend herself in an impeachment trial.
If the motion is approved in the upper house, Rousseff could be suspended as early as May.
The process is long and involved, and involves several steps. However, Rousseff’s fate should be decided by the end of the year at the latest.
So here’s what will happen between now and then:
On Monday, the process will be sent to the Senate – Brazil’s upper house – and the following day it will be read on the Senate floor.
Also on Tuesday party leaders will announce a committee of 21 parliamentarians – along with a list of alternates – who will consider the matter. After this, the committee will nominate its president and speaker within 24 hours. Thanks to a public holiday, the identity of the senators who will be on the committee, and who will head it, will be known by next Monday.
The week after
Once the committee is established, it has 10 days to recommend whether to go ahead with the impeachment process. This will be voted on by the committee by simple majority. Whatever the outcome is – and it is expected that it will proceed – the recommendation will also be considered by the Senate as a whole, the outcome also determined by a simple majority.
If the Senate takes on the case, which should be decided in early May, Rousseff will be notified and is obliged to step down from office for a maximum period of 180 days while the Senate examines the case.
In this case Vice-President Michel Temer assumes the presidency for the interim. Temer’s party, the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party, or PMDB, has also been implicated in the corruption scheme and could be further weakened by the ongoing investigation.
The succession, however temporary, could also be problematic as Temer himself could have impeachment proceedings coming his way as well.
The next step
At this stage – early November at the latest – the process will return to the special committee for the investigation phase. Rousseff will have a further 20 days to present her defense and after this the committee shall examine all the elements, documents and evidence for both her defense and the motion for impeachment. For the examination, there is no time limit defined by law.
A final determination on the findings will be voted on by special committee and on the floor of the Senate, also decided by a simple majority. If this is also approved, then the final vote will be scheduled.
Once scheduled, the final vote, chaired by the president of the Supreme Court, will take place in the Senate. In this last vote, it will take a two-thirds majority to remove the president from office.
Whatever happens, it is unlikely to be an entirely smooth process. Rousseff’s supporters have vowed to take to the streets in retaliation, ensuring a long, and potentially messy, battle ahead.