December 09, 2016 11:25
The National Assembly on Friday votes to impeach President Park Geun-hye, who is embroiled in a massive influence-peddling and corruption scandal.
Last weekend, 171 lawmakers proposed the impeachment motion, but it needs a two-thirds majority or at least 200 lawmakers to pass. The plenary session has been set to start at 3 p.m. and the results are expected around an hour later.
If it passes, Park's powers will be suspended immediately. The National Assembly then submits the impeachment bill to the Constitutional Court, where judges have 180 days to reach a ruling.
In the impeachment attempt of President Roh Moo-hyun in 2004, the Constitutional Court took 63 days to reach a decision.
Six of the nine Constitutional Court judges must rule the bill lawful. If they reject it Park is reinstated, but if it is upheld she steps down and loses her presidential immunity so she can be prosecuted.
As expected, Park had no comment on Thursday. A Cheong Wa Dae official said, "It is difficult to make any comments ahead of the impeachment vote. The president will observe the developments in a calm manner and respond according to the results."
Saenuri Party leader and Park loyalist Lee Jung-hyun made a last-ditch attempt to save Park's face. "The National Assembly should consider halting the impeachment process and letting the president step down in April, with presidential elections in June."
The offer was on the table earlier, but even most Saenuri lawmakers no longer believe it is tenable and have told the president so.
Lawmakers in the three opposition parties -- the Minjoo, People's and Justice party -- vowed to resign if the impeachment bill fails to garner enough votes.
Including independents there are in fact 172 opposition lawmakers, so they need the support of at least 28 Saenuri lawmakers to vote with them, a quorum that seems likely to be achieved.
Most Saenuri lawmakers outside Park's own traditionalist faction made no comments on Thursday, but Hwang Young-cheul, who heads a faction that does not support Park, said, "We will try our best to pass the impeachment bill."
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