BRASÍLIA: Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff was left scrambling for votes to save her presidency in a looming impeachment showdown after her main coalition partner walked out of the government Tuesday.
The PMDB, the country’s largest party, voted to immediately end its alliance with Rousseff’s leftist Workers’ Party, or PT, and go into opposition.
“From today, at this historic meeting of the PMDB, the PMDB withdraws from the government of President Rousseff,” said Sen. Romero Juca, the party vice-president.
The meeting, broadcast live on national television, was the culmination of a long divorce with Rousseff, leaving Brazil’s first female president grasping at straws as she tries to stay in power.
The vote and announcement took no more than three minutes and was accompanied by singing of the national anthem and shouts of “PT out!”
The split plunges Rousseff’s government into fresh crisis mode and, more seriously, greatly reduces her chances of mustering the one third of votes in the lower house of Congress that she needs to defeat a first impeachment vote, expected in April.
“If you look at the numbers, that’s basically it,” said Everaldo Moraes, a political science professor at Brasilia National University.
Rousseff cancelled a trip to Washington for a nuclear safety summit on Thursday and Friday, the state news agency said. A government spokesman said that in “the current political context,” it was not advisable.
If the lower house votes in favor, an impeachment trial would start in the Senate, where a two-thirds vote would force Rousseff from office. PMDB head Michel Temer – who remains vice president under Rousseff despite the break-up – would take over as interim president.
Eliseu Padilha, a high-ranking PMDB member who served as minister of civil aviation in Rousseff’s government, predicted that Rousseff had only weeks left.
“In less than three months we’ll have a new government – in two months,” he told Agence France-Presse.
Sen. Aecio Neves, who heads the PSDB opposition party and who narrowly lost to Rousseff when she won re-election in 2014, said: “The exit of the PMDB is the last nail in the coffin.”
The PMDB has 69 of the 513 lower house seats and 60 of these deputies will vote for impeachment, Padilha said. Analysts say that the PMDB’s exit could also encourage minor coalition partners to quit.
Lawmakers from the center-right Progressive Party, which has 49 deputies, and the center-left Social Democratic Party, which has 32, said their parties would meet this week on a possible split.