With the president and ex-president already under investigation, a Supreme Court justice is turning his glare on the vice president. Michel Temer could face impeachment in Brazil, as could President Dilma Rousseff.
On Tuesday, Supreme Court Justice Marco Aurelio Mello ordered Brazil's lower house to begin proceedings against Vice President Michel Temer by convening an impeachment committee.
Mello said the committee must consider putting the vice president on trial on suspicion of helping President Dilma Rousseff's alleged manipulation of the government budget in the run-up to her 2014 re-election.
A separate committee is in the process of reviewing similar charges against the president before an impeachment vote slated for mid-April.
Eduardo Cunha, who serves as the lower house's speaker and is third in line to the presidency, said he would appeal the Supreme Court justice's request. He called it an unprecedented move by Brazil's judiciary.
On Tuesday, the vice president stepped down as the leader of the Democratic Movement Party (PMDB), previously the largest junior coalition partner in Rousseff's government, until it pulled out last week.
"Temer is trying distance himself from PMDB to avoid accusations of influencing political decisions aimed at destroying President Rousseff," Augusto de Queiroz, a political scientist at Brazil's congressional research service, told Reuters news agency.
General elections: A fresh start?
Justice Mello's decision marks a significant turn amid a series of corruption-related scandals that have rocked Brazil's political scene. Rousseff, Cunha and now Temer are being probed for alleged involvement in maladministration and graft.
Renan Calheiros, the head of Brazil's Senate, suggested on Tuesday that general elections could be a way to clean the slate for the political establishment of South America's largest country.
"We have to hold onto it as an alternative," Calheiros said.
ls/msh (Reuters, AP)