The Brazilian Senate has voted to begin the impeachment trial of embattled President Dilma Rousseff, a move that could officially hand over power to her former vice president – current interim president – Michel Temer.
Senate debate stretched into the early hours of Wednesday morning, but the results were clear-cut, with a 59 to 21 majority voting in favor of moving forward with the impeachment proceedings. The Senate needed just a simple majority to decide on taking Rousseff to trial, but a two-thirds majority will be needed in the final vote, which will come after the trial in late August.
The Senate suspended Rousseff in May after allegations emerged that she illegally fudged the numbers on the country’s budget to make it seem like a slump in the economy wasn’t as bad as it actually was during her 2014 re-election campaign. Throughout the impeachment process, Rousseff has maintained that she did nothing wrong and called it a coup.
Rousseff has denied she broke budget laws and maintains she is the victim of a right-wing conspiracy to overthrow her government that advanced the interests of Brazil's poor.
In her written defense last month Rousseff said Brazilians knew an honest woman was being put on trial and she called the impeachment proceedings a "farce" and her alleged crimes no more than "routine acts of budgetary management."
Her conviction would end her 13-year reign over Brazil, and leave the largest economy in Latin America in the hands of her conservative former vice president.
Since the Senate suspended Rousseff on May 12, Brazil’s stock market and currency have strengthened based on investor speculation that Temer, who has laid out policy proposals that favor private business, will be better for the economy.
Temer has implored the Senate to move quickly, saying that the “"people need to know who the president is."
If Rousseff is found guilty, Temer will become the president until the next election is held in 2018.