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Rousseff suffers fresh coalition blow

BBC News BBC News 13/04/2016
Opposition MPs hold a banner that reads "Bye Darling Movement. The source dried up" during protest in Brasilia. 12 April 2016 © Getty Images Opposition MPs hold a banner that reads "Bye Darling Movement. The source dried up" during protest in Brasilia. 12 April 2016

Two former coalition partners of Brazil President Dilma Rousseff say they will vote for her impeachment over claims she manipulated government accounts.

Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff at meeting with teachers at Planalto Palace in Brasilia. 12 April 2016.: President Rousseff denies the accusations against her © Reuters President Rousseff denies the accusations against her

The Progressive Party (PP), which quit the coalition on Tuesday, says most of its 47 MPs would vote for the impeachment.

Grey line © BBC Grey line

The Republican Party (PRB) said its 22 members had been told to vote for it.

The logo of Brazil's state-run Petrobras oil company is seen on a tank in Cubatao, Brazil (12 April 2016) © Reuters The logo of Brazil's state-run Petrobras oil company is seen on a tank in Cubatao, Brazil (12 April 2016)

The move comes weeks after the PMDB, the largest party in the the lower house, voted to leave the coalition.

A composite image showing Dilma Rousseff and the breakdown of votes needed to avoid impeachment © BBC A composite image showing Dilma Rousseff and the breakdown of votes needed to avoid impeachment

Ms Rousseff says her opponents are plotting a "coup".

Graphic explaining how Brazilian President Rousseff could be impeached © BBC Graphic explaining how Brazilian President Rousseff could be impeached

She faces an impeachment vote in the lower house on Sunday, amid claims she juggled the accounts to make her government's economic performance appear better than it was ahead of her election campaign two years ago.

She denies the allegations, and her supporters say the issue is not valid grounds for impeachment anyway.

Could Rousseff be impeached?

Critical month for Rousseff

What has gone wrong in Brazil?

Rousseff faces a perfect storm

A PP spokeswoman told AFP news agency on Tuesday: "The party decided to withdraw from the... alliance, by majority decision." The PP is the fourth-largest party in the 513-seat lower house.

Hours later, the leadership of the PRB confirmed to BBC Brasil that its members had been told to support the removal of the president or face sanctions, including possible expulsion.

While the two developments weaken the position of the president ahead of the impeachment vote, its outcome is uncertain with many members of the lower house still undecided.

A two-thirds majority - 342 MPs - is needed to send the impeachment case to the Senate.

A recent poll, before the PP's announcement, showed 300 in favour of impeachment and 125 opposed, leaving 88 MPs still undecided or not stating their position.

Earlier on Tuesday, Ms Rousseff suggested that her Vice-President Michel Temer was one of the ringleaders of the "coup" attempt against her.

She said a widely distributed audio message of Mr Temer appearing to accept replacing her as president, was evidence of the conspiracy. However, she did not identify him by name.

"They now are conspiring openly, in the light of day, to destabilise a legitimately elected president," Ms Rousseff said.

She referred to "the chief and... the vice-chief" of the plot, an apparent reference to Mr Temer and lower house speaker Eduardo Cunha.

Brazil is "living in strange times", she said, "times of a coup, of farce and betrayal".

Mr Temer has said that the message was released by accident.

Speaking in an interview with the conservative Estado de Sao Paulo newspaper on Tuesday, Mr Temer argued that he had spent weeks away from the capital Brasilia specifically so that no-one could accuse him of plotting behind the scenes.

On Monday evening, amid rowdy scenes, a 65-member congressional committee voted 38 to 27 to recommend going ahead with impeachment proceedings.

MPs are due to start debating on Friday, officials said, with voting beginning on Sunday at about 14:00 (17:00 GMT). The result should be known later in the evening.

Security is expected to be stepped up around the Congress building in Brasilia as the vote takes place.

While President Rousseff's opponents say the impeachment is supported by most Brazilians, the president's supporters have labelled it a flagrant power grab by her political enemies.

If the president and Mr Temer are both suspended from office, the next in line to assume the presidency is Mr Cunha.

However, he is facing money-laundering and other charges.

Where did it go wrong? Daniel Gallas, Sao Paulo

From billions being stolen from state oil giant Petrobras by private construction firms and politicians, to a powerful senator negotiating for a key witness to flee from jail, the country has been rife with jaw-dropping corruption revelations.

Yet with all the investigations, one person has managed to keep a fairly clean record - President Dilma Rousseff.

Ms Rousseff's personal record on corruption may be untarnished so far - but her handling of the economy has been highly controversial. And this is the argument the opposition has been advancing to get her impeached.

Making what critics say are bad decisions on the economy is not a crime. But one of the measures taken by Ms Rousseff and her team back in 2014 was deemed illegal by a federal court.

Brazilian governments are required to meet budget surplus targets set in Congress. Ms Rousseff is accused of allowing creative accounting techniques involving loans from public banks to the treasury that artificially enhanced the budget surplus.

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What happens next?

Lower house vote: An impeachment vote is expected in the lower house on Sunday. A two-thirds majority is required for it to go forward to the Senate. Latest surveys suggest the number in favour is short of the total needed to carry the motion.

Senate vote on trial: If Ms Rousseff case is sent to the Senate, a simple majority is enough to suspend her for up to 180 days while she is put on trial. Vice-President Michel Temer would step in during this period.

Impeachment vote: For Ms Rousseff to be removed from office permanently, two-thirds of the Senate would have to vote in favour. Mr Temer would remain president for an interim period should this happen.

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