November 21, 2016 13:08
Lawmakers and presidential hopefuls are edging closer to plans for the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye after she was named as an accomplice in charges against her friend Choi Soon-sil and two aides.
Opposition parties as well as most Saenuri Party lawmakers not aligned with Park are now set on impeaching her.
The Minjoo Party on Sunday decided to both demand Park's resignation and seek to impeach her, backed by ruling-party lawmakers outside Park’s traditionalist faction.
Six presidential hopefuls and two lawmakers in the opposition parties also agreed in a meeting Sunday to call on the National Assembly to start impeachment proceedings. They included the People's Party's Ahn Cheol-soo, Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon and former Minjoo leader Moon Jae-in.
In an emergency meeting of the ruling party, 32 out of 35 lawmakers not aligned with the president supported her impeachment.
A motion to impeach would need just 29 Saenuri lawmakers to vote with the 171-strong opposition to reach the required two-thirds majority in the National Assembly.
Article 65 in the Constitution states that impeachment proceedings are justified if a president "violates laws or the Constitution in the execution of his or her duties."
"The fact that the prosecution named Park as an accomplice to crimes in its written arraignment despite being unable to question her in person or in writing shows they are confident of proving her guilt," one former prosecutor said. "This means that the grounds for impeachment as stipulated in the Constitution have been established."
And a judge at the Seoul High Court said, "Looking at the arraignment, Park faces charges of using her status to force businesses to donate money and leaking confidential documents to someone who holds no official post. If the National Assembly deems this as grounds for impeachment and votes on the decision, impeachment proceedings are possible."
One variable to this scenario is that the terms of two Constitutional Court judges end early next year since impeachment requires a majority of six of the nine judges.
Pro-Park lawmakers still have hopes that the charges Park faces are not serious enough to warrant impeachment. However, they favor impeachment over resignation because that could buy Park more time in the maximum six months required for the motion to be reviewed by the Constitutional Court.
"Once it gets really cold the number of people taking part in the candlelight protests will drop, and the president still has supporters, so an impeachment motion is not entirely bad for us," a pro-Park lawmaker said.
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