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Rousseff impeachment vote annulled, throwing Brazil legislature into chaos

Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff attends a signing ceremony for new universities, at Planalto Palace in Brasilia, Brazil, May 9, 2016. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino

Brazil’s political landscape has been thrown deeper into chaos after the interim speaker of the country’s lower house announced the annulment of last month’s impeachment vote against Dilma Rousseff.

The surprise move – which was immediately challenged by senior figures in the senate – provides a new twist in the country’s ongoing political drama that would stretch the credibility of a House of Cards plot.

Waldir Maranhão, who took over as acting speaker last week, said a new congressional vote would be needed as a result of procedural flaws in the earlier session on 17 April that dealt Rousseff a crushing defeat.

Following that vote, the impeachment process had moved up to the senate, which was due to decide on Wednesday whether to investigate the president. A yes vote would mean at the very least a temporary suspension of the elected head of state, less than halfway through her four-year mandate.

The question now is whether that vote will go ahead – or whether Rousseff has been thrown a lifeline.

Senator Raymond Lira, the head of the upper house impeachment committee, insisted nothing has changed.

“This has no legal or practical effect,” said Lira, a member of the Brazilian Democratic Movement party (PMDB) that split from the ruling coalition earlier this year. “The lower house chamber lost complete control the moment that case was handed to the senate.”

In a news release, Maranhão – who voted against impeachment – claimed the process should be returned by the senate so that the lower house can vote again.

It remained unclear whether his decision could be overruled by the supreme court, the senate or a majority in the house.

With appeals and counter-appeals still possible, Rousseff gave a cautious response to the news.

“It’s not official. I don’t know the consequences. We should be cautious,” she said, but repeated her determination to keep fighting.

Michel Temer, the vice-president, was expected to form a new administration this week and has yet to comment publicly. Neither has the former house speaker, Eduardo Cunha, who was suspended last week by the supreme court on the grounds that he was interfering in a corruption investigation into alleged kickbacks from the state-run oil company, Petrobras.

Source: The Guardian

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