Brazil’s largest political party is leaving President Dilma Rousseff’s coalition and pulling its members from her government, the party announced Tuesday. The move cripples the embattled president’s chances of surviving in office.
The Brazilian Democratic Movement Party, or PMDB, said it decided at a leadership meeting that the six remaining members in Rousseff’s Cabinet must resign or face ethics proceedings, according to news reports from Brazil.
The expected break greatly boosts the odds that Congress will impeach Rousseff in a matter of weeks in a planned vote. If that happens, Vice President Michel Temer, leader of the PMDB, would ascend to the presidency.
Rousseff's opponents accuse her of breaking budget laws. She has maintained her innocence, and has called the impeachment efforts a coup.
Brazil’s stock market and currency have rallied in recent days as expectations of Rousseff’s ouster have grown. Many of the president’s critics blame her economic interventions for pushing Brazil into its worst economic recession in 25 years. Thousands of anti-government protesters last week took to the streets of Brazil’s biggest cities demanding her ouster and voicing frustration over the stalled economy that has made it difficult for many young people to find work.
The economy shrank by 3.8 percent in 2015, the worst single annual fall in gross domestic product since 1990, the Brazilian statistics office reported earlier this month. The International Monetary Fund has predicted a further 3.5 shrinkage this year, setting the Latin American giant up for its worst recession in more than a century.
Brazil’s mounting financial woes are only part of the wider economic and political mess unfolding in the nation of 204 million people. The widespread corruption scandal ensnaring Rousseff and her Workers’ Party has left the capital Brasilia in political gridlock, delaying or stalling government attempts to steer the economy back on track.
Brazil’s PMDB has helped form governments ever since 1985, when the military dictatorship gave way to democracy. The party last held the presidency in the early 1990s, and since then has been a key coalition partner in every subsequent administration.
Political observers said the PMDB’s departure Tuesday may prompt other parties to follow suit and tip the balance against Rousseff.
“The PMDB leaving is a big game change,” David Fleischer, professor emeritus of politics at the University of Brasilia, told Bloomberg. “This makes her impeachment much more likely.”