BRASILIA Brazil's lower house of Congress launched impeachment proceedings against President Dilma Rousseff on Thursday by approving a committee of 65 members that will study whether there are grounds to remove her for manipulating government accounts.
Lawmakers voted 433-1 to install the committee that is tasked with reporting to the full lower house. Approval from two-thirds of the 513 members of the lower house would be needed to proceed to a formal trial in the Senate.
The opposition request to impeach Rousseff alleges that her government manipulated accounts in 2014 to allow her to boost public spending in the run-up to her re-election in 2014.
The call for impeachment has become a test for Rousseff's survival in a political storm created by a widening corruption scandal and Brazil's worst recession in decades.
Lawmakers approved a slate of names from all parties represented in Congress. Leonardo Picciani, leader in the lower house of the centrist PMDB party, which is divided over supporting or ousting Rousseff, said the list was impartial.
"The panel includes moderates, allies and opponents of the government," said Picciani, who is regarded as a member of a faction favourable to Rousseff within the PMDB.
House Speaker Eduardo Cunha, an archenemy of the president, said this week that he will speed up proceedings as much as possible. The committee will be formally installed on Thursday evening, when it should select its chairman.
Government aides had been confident earlier this year they could muster the 171 votes to block the attempt to unseat her, but a wave of recent protests and revelations in the corruption probe have put her survival in danger.
Rousseff on Thursday swore in charismatic former Workers' Party president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva as her chief of staff with the job of cementing support for her in Congress and averting impeachment.
(Reporting by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Daniel Flynn and Tom Brown)
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Updated Date: Mar 18, 2016 02:31 AM