Lawmakers to Vote on Impeaching Park in Early December

  • By Ryu Jung, Sun Jung-min

    November 25, 2016 09:32

    Political parties are inching closer to setting a date when they will vote to impeach President Park Geun-hye over a massive corruption scandal now they are confident of their majority.

    The leaders of the three main political parties met Thursday and agreed to propose the bill. Minjoo Party floor leader Woo Sang-ho said, "We are planning to hold a vote on the impeachment as early as Dec. 2 or no later than Dec. 9."

    Park Jie-won of the People's Party vowed to back the motion and urged other parties to speed up the process so that the Constitutional Court can deliberate on the impeachment bill.

    More than 40 lawmakers in the ruling Saenuri Party also signed a compact passed around among lawmakers in the party who are not aligned with Park. They would easily give the motion the required two-thirds majority if added to the 171 opposition lawmakers.

    But opposition officials are cautious, preferring to wait until the results are out, because impeachment votes are conducted by secret ballot and there is no way of knowing if some lawmakers will change their mind at the last minute.

    If the National Assembly passes the impeachment bill, Park's powers as president are suspended while the prime minister leads the nation and the Constitutional Court deliberates the case.

    The court has 180 days to make a ruling, and pundits say the process could take longer than the two months it took in 2004, when President Roh Moo-hyun faced impeachment.

    Back then, the Constitutional Court discussed the impeachment bill once a week starting on March 30 after the National Assembly ratified it on March 12. It finally rejected the bill on May 14.

    "Roh had already admitted charges of violating his neutrality in elections as well as corruption scandals involving his aides, and the court focused on whether these issues warranted impeachment," one former Constitutional Court justice said on condition of anonymity.

    "But Park denies the charges, so the process could take longer as judges debate the veracity of the accusations."

    Park has been named as an accomplice in indictments of her close friend Choi Soon-sil and two former aides for corruption and abuse of authority, but her lawyer has dismissed the charges against her as "imagination and conjecture."

    Also, there were only three witnesses to be questioned in the Roh case, but this time, the court needs to question Choi, former senior secretary for policy coordination An Chong-bum, former secretary for private presidential affairs Jeong Ho-seong, as well as the nation's biggest tycoons.

    Former Constitutional Court official Noh Hee-bum said, "The duration of the trial depends on how many crimes allegedly committed by the president the National Assembly includes in its bill. If only those charges for which prosecutors have secured solid evidence are included, a decision could be reached within three to four months."

    If the Constitutional Court upholds the impeachment bill, a presidential election must be held within 60 days, according to Article 68 of the Constitution, or between May and June next year. But if the court takes the full six months, the election will have to be held around August.

    If the court rules in favor, Park will be stripped of her post and can face criminal and civil charges.

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