BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brazil's Federal Accounts Court on Wednesday ruled President Dilma Rousseff doctored the budget and urged Congress to reject the government accounts from last year, paving the way for a potential impeachment against the embattled leader.
In a unanimous vote the court, known as TCU, ruled that Rousseff manipulated the budget to cover a widening fiscal deficit last year. It is the first time the court rejected the accounts of a head of state in nearly 80 years.
Although the ruling is not legally binding it could be used by the opposition to build a case for Rousseff's impeachment in a Congress increasingly hostile to the unpopular leftist leader. Congress has the final word on Rousseff's accounts.
Opposition lawmakers at the court clapped and hugged each other after the ruling, saying the decision was the beginning of the end for the Rousseff administration.
"The Rousseff administration is over. This decision buries this administration once and for all," Rubens Bueno, a lawmaker with the opposition PPS party.
Earlier on Wednesday the TCU rejected the government's attempt to delay the ruling with a request to remove the judge leading the case for publicly revealing he intended to vote against Rousseff.
In its decision, the court said Rousseff breached the fiscal responsibility law to improve fiscal results and keep up with social spending ahead of the 2014 presidential vote, which Rousseff won by a tight margin.
Rousseff's administration has acknowledged the delay because of lack of cash at the time, but denies any irregularities. The government started to repay those arrears this year and last week issued a decree that forbids any future delays.
Attorney General Luis Adams said he will appeal the court decision with the Supreme Court.
"The game is not over yet," he told reporters after the ruling.
Reporting by Alonso Soto; Editing by Christian Plumb and Lisa Shumaker