Top Court Likely Last Bid to Halt Rousseff's Impeachment in Brazil

Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff looks on during a ceremony Wednesday for a contract renewal between the Special Secretariat of Ports and Container Terminal of Paranagua, at the Planalto Palace in Brasilia, Brazil. Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters

Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff resorted to the Supreme Court on Thursday in a last-ditch attempt to avert a critical impeachment vote in Congress that could lead to her removal from office.

Rousseff's attorney general, Jose Eduardo Cardozo, asked the top court for an injunction to suspend Sunday's lower house vote until the full court can rule on what he called procedural flaws in the impeachment process.

The Supreme Court has called an extraordinary meeting for this evening to discuss a complaint by a party allied to Rousseff over the impeachment procedure.

Rousseff, an unpopular leader already struggling with Brazil's worst economic crisis in decades and a historic corruption scandal, has lost support within her governing coalition. She faces the growing likelihood of defeat in the lower house vote, which would send her impeachment to the Senate for trial on charges of breaking budget laws.

If the Senate accepts her impeachment, Rousseff would be suspended and replaced by Vice President Michel Temer as soon as early May pending a trial that could last six months.

Rousseff, a former leftist guerrilla, had not been expected to resort to the Supreme Court until after Sunday's vote. Cardozo's request to the court was seen as a sign her government now expects defeat.

Rousseff's opponents are just nine votes short of victory in the lower house, with 333 lawmakers backing impeachment, 124 opposed and 56 undecided or declining to respond, according to a survey by the Estado de S.Paulo newspaper.

An injunction by the Supreme Court suspending Sunday's vote is possible but unlikely, because several of its justices have recently said they do not think the court should interfere with the legislature's jurisdiction in the impeachment battle.

The injunction request will be decided by Justice Edson Fachin. He is the most recent appointee to the court by Rousseff, though his rulings have not always favored her government.

Brazil's largest political party, Rousseff's main coalition partner until it broke away two weeks ago, said most of its members in the lower house will back deposing her.

Leonardo Picciani, the lower chamber leader for the party, the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party, or PMDB, told reporters that 90 percent of the 68 members of his caucus would vote for impeachment.

The move could push Brazil from political paralysis into a chaotic power vacuum by ending the 13-year rule of Rousseff's leftist Workers' Party, which has lifted millions of Brazilians out of poverty and is overwhelmingly supported by the country's poor.