Brasilia: Brazilian legislators pushing to oust President Dilma Rousseff appeared to have the upper hand, with a wide margin voting to impeach her and cut short a term running through 2018.
More than two hours into voting, the pro-impeachment camp was leading 254 to 87. If 342 of the Chamber of Deputies' 513 members vote in favor, the proceedings move to the Senate for a possible trial. If senators voted to hold a trial that would suspend Rousseff and hand over the top job to Vice President Michel Temer.
A close ally of the president lamented that many of her colleagues had "betrayed" Rousseff.
"It was a herd effect, and many (legislators) betrayed us. It was a double defeat," said Brazilian Community Party legislator Orlando Silva, a close supporter of Rousseff.
After more than 40 hours of debate that began Friday, legislators in Congress' lower house began voting one by one yesterday evening, the culmination of months of political wrangling that exposed deep polarisation in Latin America's largest nation and most powerful economy.
Eduardo Cunha, the house speaker leading the impeachment push, called deputies individually, giving them time to speak before casting their vote. After each vote, both cheers and boos erupted while legislators looked up at a board keeping score.
Luiz Carlos Hauly, a deputy in the Social Democratic Party, the main opposition party, said Rousseff had to go. "In Europe they change their government when it doesn't have the majority," he said. "This administration has no majority. It doesn't have the means to govern."
Simone Morgado, a member of the centrist Brazilian Democratic Movement, said impeachment proponents were trying to derail a democratically elected president.
"Given that Dilma didn't commit any crime, like so many others in this chamber, which has no shame, I'm voting 'no!'," she said.
The extraordinary session came as the government is paralysed and the population sharply divided, with friends and foes of Rousseff dismissing each other as "putchists" and "thieves."
Outside the legislature, waves of pro- and anti-impeachment demonstrators flooded into the capital of Brasilia from across the huge nation.
A metal wall more than a kilometre long was installed to keep the rival sides safely apart.
People on both sides watched the score on large movie screens, cheering or booing in accordance with their political leanings.