Opinion, by Michael Royster
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Friday the 13th, there were demonstrations across the country, supporting President Dilma, even though many of the demonstrators simultaneously protested actions by Dilma’s current government.
Most of those who demonstrated were from Dilma’s part of the political spectrum — populist, leftist and socialist. For these demonstrators, Dilma won the election fair and square, in two rounds, and the pan-clanging opposition is seeking a “third round” called “impeachment”.
The Curmudgeon is no great supporter of Dilma, but in this particular, Friday’s demonstrators are absolutely correct. Calls for Dilma to be impeached, or to resign, based on her unpopularity, are absolutely incompatible with the presidential system of government.
In parliamentary systems of government, members of parliament are chosen by the people; members of parliament, not the people, choose the chief executive. There is no fixed term of office for the executive, which serves at the pleasure of parliament. Widespread unpopularity with government is the most common source of motions of “no confidence”.
In presidential systems, on the other hand, the chief executive is chosen directly by the people to serve for a specific term of office, not to serve at the pleasure of parliament. There can be no votes of “no confidence”, because these would amount to a “third round” of presidential elections.
There is no institutional way to remove a sitting president except by the formal process of impeachment. Impeachment is a civil, not a criminal question. It essentially means that the President has done something so politically incorrect that it compromises the ability to govern.
Most pan-clangers say Dilma lied during her campaign about the state of the union, and that she’s incapable of changing her policies; perhaps that’s true, but it’s not grounds for impeachment.
Most pan-clangers believe Dilma knew about the Petrolão scandal; perhaps she did, but so far there’s no proof, and impeachment requires proof.
The Curmudgeon will emit more Smidgens opportunely. Stay tuned.