Tue, Sep 13, 2016 - Page 7 News List

Leader of Rousseff impeachment drive could lose own seat

AFP, BRASILIA

A demonstrator holds up a caricature of Brazilian President Michel Temer and former lower house speaker Eduardo Cunha that reads “Temer Out, Cunha to Jail” during a protest in Rio de Janeiro on Wednesday last week.

Photo: Reuters

Former Brazilian lower house speaker Eduardo Cunha, who sprearheaded the drive to remove president Dilma Rousseff from office, could be stripped of his seat if his peers vote him out.

Cunha, who is often compared to the dark, manipulative hero Frank Underwood of the hit Netflix series House of Cards, used his position as speaker to put Rousseff on an unstoppable path to impeachment.

However, the 58-year-old conservative lawmaker allied with the Brazilian Congress’ Evangelical Christian wing resigned from his position as speaker in July amid swirling accusations of corruption linked to the huge state oil company Petrobras.

Cunha is being prosecuted for allegedly taking millions of US dollars in bribes. He was to face Congress yesterday for having “lied” to other lawmakers about his possession of secret Swiss bank accounts. He denies all wrongdoing.

Cunha was first suspended in May, less than a month after lawmakers voted to open impeachment proceedings against Rousseff.

Rousseff was definitively removed from office on Aug. 31, and replaced by her center-right vice president Michel Temer.

Cunha has used a variety of stalling tactics to slow the proceedings that could lead to his ouster from Congress. Analysts said he might ask his peers to delay a vote on his fate until after next month’s municipal elections, or for a simple suspension, rather than the loss of his seat.

As a last resort, he could also ask that lawmakers allow him to keep the right to hold public office — a right Rousseff also kept after being stripped of her job, despite the country’s constitution calling for lengthy bans.

However, polls released over the weekend show that many of Cunha’s onetime allies have deserted him.

The daily O Globo forecast that 297 lawmakers out of a total 513 would vote against Cunha — 40 more than the minimum required. About 20 of those are from his PMDB party, the biggest in Brazil and also Temer’s party.

Rousseff, from the leftist Workers’ Party, accused both Temer and Cunha of orchestrating a coup against her.

Thanks largely to Cunha’s leadership, the lower house voted heavily in favor last year of opening an impeachment trial against Rousseff, on charges that she illegally manipulated government accounts.

On April 17, the day Rousseff’s impeachment trial was authorized, Cunha was the target of a barrage of insults in Congress from leftist deputies, who shouted “Gangster!” and “Putschist!”

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