Opponents accuse Rousseff of accounting chicanery that hid the country's economic problems. The president says the accounting practices are legitimate, and accuses her opponents of a power grab.
President Dilma Rousseff's chances of avoiding impeachment diminished further on Wednesday as three parties abandoned the governing coalition, adding fuel to the impeachment fire.
Her ouster is far from assured but the loss of support from the mid-sized, centrist parties sparked a growing sense of despondency among members of the president's left-of-center Workers' Party.
A critical parliamentary vote this weekend will likely determine her future. A vote on Sunday in the Chamber of Deputies should determine if the impeachment process moves ahead, based on allegations of violating budget laws.
Her opponents accuse her of violating fiscal rules by shifting around government funds to mask budget problems.
Rousseff rejects the allegations, insisting her financial maneuvers are common practice, used by two previous presidents. She says the impeachment efforts are nothing more than an attempted coup and a blatant power grab by her political opponents.
There are 513 seats in Brazil's lower house of parliament, and those advocating for impeachment need to garner a two-thirds majority, or 342 votes in order to advance the process to the Senate for a formal impeachment trial.
One local newspaper calculates that 284 legislators have come out in favor of impeachment, while 114 are opposed and 115 remain undecided.
Outcome still uncertain
The outcome remains uncertain but the collective decision by the Social Democratic Party and their 36 members of parliament, and the Progressive Party with their 47 MPs, and the Brazilian Republican Party's 22 legislators dealt a harsh blow to Rousseff's position.
"Ministers close to Dilma believe the battle against impeachment is virtually lost," wrote Monica Bergamo, a respected political columnist. "Not all of them have definitively thrown in the towel, but the consensus is that the government is going through its worst moment."
The Democratic Labor Party vowed to cast its members' 20 votes against impeachment, but Rousseff's position seemed increasingly vulnerable. Even as she reached out to individual lawmakers, and vowed to form a national unity government, her political opponents were smelling blood.
Specifically Vice President Michel Temer, who would take over the presidency should formal impeachment proceedings against Rousseff begin, is already courting lawmakers and foreign investors.
Temer's Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB) is the largest party in Brazil's parliament, with 66 seats. Wellington Moreira Franco, an economic coordinator for the PMDB, said the biggest challenge for a Temer administration would be to shore up the country's finances, as it faces its worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.
"That fiscal rebalancing will have to be accompanied with incentives to generate jobs and raise income," said Franco. "It has to be a gradual adjustment ... if not you risk suffocating the population."
bik/bw (AP, Reuters)