Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Fernando Gomes Batista (L) and former Justice Minister Raul Jungmann (R) have been brought together by the tribunal to decide if charges should be made
A commission of 11 senators has voted in favour of recommending that President Jair Bolsonaro should face criminal charges in connection with electoral fraud.
It follows a request by nine senators for an investigation of allegations that he illegally used government funds to fund his 2014 campaign.
The former Army captain, who was elected in November 2018, has denied the allegations.
The new impeachment measure would still require the approval of the full upper house of Congress to make it to President Bolsonaro’s desk.
His slim majority in the lower house would make it nearly impossible for him to approve the measure.
President Bolsonaro has been attacking the commission, saying that there was a partisan alliance behind the move.
Support for impeachment
But his chief of staff, Gen Geraldo Alckmin, says the president will not be swayed by the vote.
If the measure does get through the lower house, President Bolsonaro would then face the possibility of being impeached by the senate, as his political ally, President Mauricio Macri, found out in Argentina, reports the BBC’s Will Grant in Brasilia.
Gen Alckmin said both the president and the Congress understood there was a need to take “appropriate action” on the issue of electoral fraud, and that the president had not been informed in advance of the vote.
He added that the president believed that a “proper and democratic electoral process was implemented”.
Image copyright Reuters Image caption Jair Bolsonaro is a controversial figure for many of Brazil’s nearly 200 million people
On 13 March, a similar commission petitioned the Senate to investigate alleged electoral fraud in Brazil’s recent presidential elections.
Gen Alckmin said he expected a positive result when it came to the vote.
Several of the commission members are members of the PT-led Congress, and have been prime target of President Bolsonaro’s ire.
The group also includes Congressman Raul Jungmann, who was a top justice minister under Mr Macri, and who has been under investigation over a 1980 military coup.
A former judge, Judge Bruno Neves, filed the petition and decided to refer Mr Bolsonaro to the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) for corruption charges, as well as to the state anti-corruption office.
Mr Bolsonaro has been attacking the judicial system and the ethics committee of the lower house of Congress for dragging their feet on the matter.
He said some accusations could be leading to “voter fatigue”.
Image copyright Reuters Image caption Thousands of Brazilians are often on the streets against President Bolsonaro and his allies
A couple of months before the elections in October, Mr Bolsonaro stated that his political rise was proof of popular support against the establishment.
He said that despite the media groupings and other protests, an “overwhelming majority” supported him.
A late January statement released by the Brazilian prosecutor-general’s office stated that the congressman would be investigated by the TSE, in the context of an ongoing investigation into alleged electoral irregularities.
Following that, Mr Bolsonaro sent a letter to the Senate noting that “all the cases [against him] are politically motivated”.
He said he was giving up his right to vote in the investigation, because the accusations were politically motivated, and calling on all Brazilians to unite against the existing political system.
He further said that he had already been impeached and jailed, before vowing to “not let this trial be a humiliation.”
Prime Minister Fernando Haddad recently said he was against any impeachment process.
“The concept of impeachment is deeply ingrained in the political culture of this country. We are going to eradicate it,” he said.