Leader of Rousseff impeachment drive could lose own Brazil seat

Eduardo Cunha used his position as speaker of the lower house to put Rousseff on an unstoppable path to impeachment

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Eduardo Cunha, Brazil's scandal-plagued former congressional speaker who spearheaded the drive to remove president Dilma Rousseff from office, could be stripped of his seat Monday if his peers vote him out.

Cunha, who is often compared to the dark, manipulative hero Frank Underwood of the hit Netflix series "House of Cards," used his position as speaker of the lower house to put Rousseff on an unstoppable path to impeachment.

But the 58-year-old conservative lawmaker allied with Congress's Evangelical Christian wing resigned from his position as speaker in July amid swirling accusations of corruption linked to the huge state oil company Petrobras.

Cunha is being prosecuted for allegedly taking millions of dollars in bribes.

On Monday, he will face the music in Congress for having "lied" to other lawmakers about his possession of secret Swiss bank accounts. Cunha denies all wrongdoing.

Cunha was first suspended in May, less than a month after lawmakers voted to open impeachment proceedings against Rousseff.
Rousseff was definitively removed from office on August 31, and replaced by her center-right vice president Michel Temer.

Cunha has used a variety of stalling tactics to slow the proceedings that could lead to his ouster from Congress. Analysts say he will play his final card Monday by asking his peers to delay a vote on his fate until after October municipal elections.

He may also argue for a simple suspension, rather than the loss of his seat.

As a last resort, he could also ask that lawmakers allow him to keep the right to hold public office -- a right Rousseff also kept after being stripped of her job, despite the country's constitution calling for lengthy bans.

But polls released over the weekend show that many of Cunha's onetime allies have deserted him.

The daily O Globo forecast that 297 lawmakers out of a total 513 will vote against Cunha -- 40 more than the minimum required. About 20 of those are from his PMDB party, the biggest in Brazil and also Temer's party.

Rousseff, from the leftist Workers' Party, accused both Temer and Cunha of orchestrating a coup against her.

Thanks largely to Cunha's leadership, the lower house voted heavily in favor last year of opening an impeachment trial against Rousseff, on charges that she illegally manipulated government accounts.

On April 17, the day Rousseff's impeachment trial was authorized, Cunha was the target of a barrage of insults in Congress from leftist deputies, who shouted "Gangster!" and "Putschist!"