After months of speculation over her future, Brazilian leader Dilma Rousseff is one step closer to losing the country’s top job.
A 65-member special impeachment commission has found there are sufficient grounds to impeach Brazil’s first female president, accused of manipulating government accounts to hide the extent of the country’s budget deficit, in order to improve her chances of reelection in 2014.
She has denied all allegations.
A spokesman for the Social Democracy party, the PSDB, Abi-Ackel, says the party had no choice but to vote to impeach.
“Brazil is in a grave economic situation. The country is stalled. The president of the Republic’s seat is empty. For this reason, the PSDB Party votes yes to impeachment.”
Although the vote by the commission is non-binding, it gives an indication of the feeling in the lower house of Congress, which is expected to hold another vote within the week.
If the left-leaning Ms Rousseff is removed, it would be the first impeachment of a Brazilian leader since the 1992 ousting of Fernando Collor de Mello, over corruption charges.
Speaking before the vote, a congressman from Ms Rousseff’s PT Workers’ Party described the exercise as an excuse to remove Ms Rousseff from power.
“There is no crime of responsibility, but it (impeachment efforts) attempts to give a judicial feel to the elective coup they are trying to carry out. It is sad – a president who hasn’t committed a crime, who isn’t facing any judicial processes, and is at risk of – if it is up to the opposition – losing her mandate.”
The claims come at a bad time for Latin America’s biggest economy, with the nation dealing with a recession and a massive corruption scandal involving the state-run oil company Petrobras.
Ms Rousseff’s presidential predecessor, Luiz Inacio da Silva, has also been investigated for graft, while her main ally, the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party, split with the governing coalition late last month.
Outside the meeting, police had erected a one-kilometre long metal fence to separate pro- and anti-impeachment protesters.
Prior to the vote, head of the Commission Congressman Rogerio Rosso called for calm.
“It’s not the time to put up walls. It’s time for us to put the bickering aside, until the end of this process. No matter what the result is, we can come together to overcome the crises that plague the country.”
If a majority of senators now vote to impeach Ms Rousseff she will then be suspended for 180 days while a Senate trial is held.
Two-thirds of the Senate must then vote in favour for her to be removed permanently.
During this time Vice President Michel Temer would act in her place, though a recent survey of Brazilians show most want him impeached as well.
Mr Temer was forced to quickly apologise on Monday night when an audio message appearing to show him preparing to take over the presidency was accidentally posted online.