February 28, 2023 10:15
The National Assembly narrowly voted against a motion on Monday to strip main opposition Minjoo Party leader Lee Jae-myung of his immunity so he can be arrested for corruption and bribery.
Of the 297 lawmakers who cast their ballots, 139 supported the motion and 138 opposed it, nine abstained and 11 other votes were deemed invalid.
But a lawmaker's immunity can only be lifted by an absolute majority or at least 149 votes, so Lee scraped through safely in the end.
The Minjoo Party, which controls a super-majority in the National Assembly and had expected an overwhelming rejection, was stunned when at least 31 of its members rebelled. Only 138 out of the party's 169 lawmakers opposed the motion, while 20 abstained or spoiled their ballots.
It took much longer than expected to count the ballots as two were barely decipherable. After an hour-long discussion, one was eventually counted as a vote against and the other ruled invalid.
Rattled by the result, Lee said, "I intend to communicate more with my party members and listen to their opinions so that we can put up a strong fight against the dictatorial government of former Prosecutor General [now President] Yoon Suk-yeol."
Prosecutors sought an arrest warrant for Lee on charges of corruption in several land development projects when he was mayor of the satellite town of Seongnam, Gyeonggi Province.
They are now widely expected to indict him without arrest once further investigations into more allegations surrounding him are complete.
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