An impeachment committee of Brazil's lower house of Congress voted 38-27 on Monday that there are grounds to impeach President Dilma Rousseff on charges of breaking budget laws to allegedly favour her re-election in 2014.
Now it is up to the lower house to decide the president's faith. The crucial lower house vote is expected on April 17 or 18. A two-thirds majority in the lower house would send Rousseff's case to the Senate, which would then have the power to put her on trial and ultimately drive her from office.
Rousseff, accused of fiddling accounts to mask the dire state of the government budget during her 2014 re-election, is fighting desperately to ensure enough support among deputies to stop the process.
The latest survey of the 513 deputies in the lower house by Estadao Daily on Monday showed 292 in favour, still short of the 342 needed to carry the motion. The count showed 115 opposing impeachment, with 172 required to impose a defeat.
That left the result in the hands of the 106 deputies still undecided or not stating a position.
With Latin America's biggest country gripped by recession, political paralysis and a vast corruption scandal, the stakes are huge and passions on both sides intense.
A barricade was erected along the Esplanade of Ministries in the capital Brasilia to separate opposing protesters that police expect could number as many as 300,000 during the lower house vote.
More than 4,000 police and firefighters will be on duty, G1 news site reported, and security Monday was stepped up at Congress, with heavy restrictions on access to the building.
If the case is taken up by the Senate after being confirmed by the lower house, Rousseff would have to step down for up to 180 days while a trial is held. Her Vice President Michel Temer, who has gone over to the opposition, would take the reins.
Temer would also remain president if a two-thirds majority in the Senate votes to depose Rousseff.
Some in the opposition have declared Rousseff politically dead ever since Temer's PMDB party, the largest in Brazil, quit her ruling coalition and joined the pro-impeachment ranks last month.
However, Rousseff, who was tortured under Brazil's military dictatorship, has fought back, helped by ally and former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who is overseeing frantic negotiations to build an impeachment-proof coalition.
Rousseff has rock-bottom popularity ratings but as the moment of truth approaches, it has emerged that Brazilians are not much keener on her would-be replacement Temer.
A poll by the respected Datafolha institute on Saturday showed that 61 percent of Brazilians support impeachment, down from 68 percent in mid-March.
However, 58 percent also said they would like to see Temer impeached too.
Controversy erupted Monday with the release -- said by Temer's office to have been accidental -- of a recording in which he practices the speech he'd give if he took over from Rousseff.
Temer adopts a presidential tone, calling for "unification of the country."
Rousseff's Workers' Party called the premature speech evidence of "a brazen coup plot."