RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) – Suspended President Dilma Rousseff made a last-ditch effort Tuesday to avoid impeachment, telling Brazilian lawmakers she would let voters decide if they want an early presidential election if she is restored to power.
Rousseff had been publicly mulling the idea of a plebiscite for weeks as the Senate moves closer to an impeachment vote on charges her administration violated fiscal rules to hide a gaping budget deficit. The vote is scheduled for Aug. 25, four days after the end of the Olympics being held in Rio de Janeiro.
She made the proposal official in a long letter "to the federal senate and Brazilian people" in which she mixed expressions of regret for failing to listen to her compatriots with stern admonishments for critics she accused of plotting to carry out a "coup."
"The full restoration of democracy requires that the population be the one to decide what is the best way to expand governability and perfect the Brazilian political and electoral system," she said in the letter, which she also read in a message. "It's the only way out of the crisis."
Rousseff's current term ends in 2018. If she is permanently removed by the Senate, interim President Michel Temer would serve out the term.
Under her proposal, Rousseff once back in power would call a nationwide plebiscite asking Brazilians whether they supported an early election and a sweeping political and economic reform.
The idea has some popular appeal. A poll taken last month by Datafolha said 62 percent of Brazilians favored a new election as a way out of the country's debilitating political crisis. But the same poll found almost as many Brazilians did not want Rousseff back in power.
Holding an early election would require a constitutional amendment that would not likely be supported by Rousseff's opponents in congress, who voted overwhelmingly to suspend her pending the Senate trial. Many in her Workers' Party loyal to former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva have also balked at the idea.
"This is nothing more than a desperate, last-minute political maneuver," said Elival da Silva Ramos, a law professor at the University of Sao Paulo. "Nobody is taking it seriously."
Rousseff was suspended in May on charges of fiddling with the federal budget to hide a gaping deficit. Although lawmakers have rolled back some of their accusations, she remains widely despised for rampant corruption inside the Workers' Party and for Latin America's largest economy falling into its deepest recession since the 1930s.
However, Temer is just as unpopular and implicated himself in the sprawling investigation into huge bribes paid to powerful politicians across the political spectrum by companies to win contracts from state-run oil giant Petrobras.
The GloboNews channel reported Tuesday night that a Supreme Court justice authorized a prosecutor to further investigate whether Rousseff's failed attempt to appoint Lula to a Cabinet post was an effort to help him avoid prosecution in corruption cases. Government officials could not be reached for comment on the report.