UPDATE 4-Brazil justice orders impeachment process for VP, heightens crisis
(Adds speaker to appeal ruling, Rousseff's impeachment odds drop)
By Alonso Soto and Anthony Boadle
BRASILIA, April 5 (Reuters) - A Supreme Court judge ordered Brazil's Congress on Tuesday to start impeachment proceedings against Vice President Michel Temer, deepening a political crisis and uncertainty over leadership of Latin America's largest country.
Justice Marco Aurelio Mello told the lower house to convene an impeachment committee to consider putting Temer on trial on charges he helped manipulate budget accounting as part of President Dilma Rousseff's administration.
Another committee is already analysing similar charges against Rousseff, a leftist who is scrambling for support to defeat an impeachment vote in the lower house as early as mid-April.
Mello, who has a record of controversial decisions that later have been overturned by the full court, criticized the shelving of a request to impeach the vice president by lower house Speaker Eduardo Cunha, who in December launched impeachment proceedings against Rousseff on the same grounds.
Cunha said he will appeal against Mello's unprecedented ruling, which raises questions about the future governance of a country mired in political turmoil, a severe economic recession and an institutional crisis that is increasingly being handled by the judiciary.
Because Temer is next in line for the presidency if Rousseff was impeached, the possibility of his ouster complicates the calculation that lawmakers must make if they vote to oust Rousseff. If one is guilty of the charges, the ruling suggests, the other is guilty too.
"This takes away some of the momentum for her impeachment," said Sonia Fleury, a political scientist at the Getulio Vargas Foundation, a business school and think tank in Rio de Janeiro. "Her opponents will now have to rethink their strategy." Continuación...