Wednesday 28 September 2016

Dilma Rousseff favours new elections to overcome 'political weariness' in Brazil

Published 15/06/2016 | 01:06

Suspended Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff speaks during a press conference for foreign journalists at the Planalto residential palace, in Brasilia, Brazil, Tuesday, June 14, 2016. Rousseff blasted the impeachment process against her as
Suspended Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff speaks during a press conference for foreign journalists at the Planalto residential palace, in Brasilia, Brazil, Tuesday, June 14, 2016. Rousseff blasted the impeachment process against her as "fraudulent" and promised to fight what she characterized as an injustice more painful than the torture she endured under a past military dictatorship. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)

Suspended Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has said she would favour new elections to help Latin America's largest nation emerge from a political crisis - if she is first returned to office.

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In an interview with foreign news agencies, Ms Rousseff said she must first survive an upcoming trial in which senators will decide whether to permanently remove her from office.

She said the country is experiencing a political "weariness" and many citizens no longer believe in the process.

"This has to be overcome," she said, speaking from the presidential residence, where she is allowed to remain while suspended. "If there needs to be new elections, I would be in favour."

Ms Rousseff was impeached and suspended by the Senate last month for allegedly using fiscal tricks to hide yawning gaps in the federal budget. She has repeatedly denied wrongdoing, insisting that the proceedings were a "fraud" and a "coup".

She has argued that many deputies want her out to water down a colossal investigation into billions of dollars in kickbacks at state oil company Petrobras. In the last two years, several senior politicians and businessmen have been arrested and jailed in the investigation.

While Ms Rousseff paid for it politically - much of the corruption happened while her Workers' Party was in office - she repeatedly refused to do anything that might alter a process she said Brazil badly needed.

In the hour-long interview, she floated the idea of a plebiscite on her mandate.

"I don't have any problem asking what the people want. In any case, the only way that a president's mandate should be interrupted is via a plebiscite."

Getting to new elections before 2018, the end of Ms Rousseff's term, would be a tall order - M s Rousseff and interim President Michel Temer would have to resign or be removed from office.

Temer allies have rejected growing calls among some policymakers for new elections. But a cascade of scandals dogging his fledgling administration have led to several senators saying publicly that they are rethinking their vote. Some of the scandals have included leaked recordings of Temer allies strategising about how to tamp down the Petrobras investigation, adding to Ms Rousseff's contention that ousting her was about that, not about sleight-of-hand accounting.

Last month, the Senate voted 55-22 to remove Ms Rousseff, one more vote than will be necessary during the trial to permanently remove her.

She said she spends her days strategisng with activists and friendly policymakers about how to change senators' minds. She also said she is working on a letter of intentions to be published some time before the impeachment trial, offering a new platform should she be returned to office.

She said she will attend the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro if she is invited. While Mr Temer is very unlikely to do that, Olympic Committee officials could invite her, though clearly it would be awkward to have two presidents on hand.

"If I am not invited, I will be watching from up a tree with binoculars," she joked.

Ms Rousseff said she would not meet visiting foreign leaders ahead of the August 5 opening ceremonies so as not to "create any embarrassment".

Ms Rousseff said she fears Mr Temer's inexperience in office could affect the Olympic preparations.

"They let many important technocrats go," she said. Earlier on Tuesday, Mr Temer visited Rio's Olympic Park for the first time since he became interim president.

Asked about the biggest mistake she made during the impeachment process against her, Ms Rousseff said she "shouldn't have made the alliances" she did, in a reference to Mr Temer and his inner circle.

In the only moment that her tone of voice changed during the interview, Ms Rousseff said she is experiencing "a deep personal sadness and a sadness for Brazil" because of the impeachment trial.

"It is hard to be elected with 54 million votes, feel unfairly treated and not feel like that," she said.

Press Association

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