South Koreans MPs reflected the national will when 230 of the National Assembly’s 300 members voted yesterday in a secret ballot to impeach the President, Ms Park Geun-hye, on accusations of influence-peddling, abuse of power, dereliction of duty, and other faults.
This victory for opposition parties and independents also relied on dissenters from the ruling Saenuri party to reach the required two-thirds majority. As The Economist notes, "today’s proceedings were remarkably civil and swift. MPs queued to cast their votes; many photographed their marked ballot papers to share on social media with their constituents. The atmosphere outside the National Assembly, where protesters had gathered, was festive in the run-up to the vote."
The Constitutional court has six months to decide whether there is sufficient actual evidence of wrongdoing to justify the President’s permanent dismissal, but a prolonged power vacuum would be harmful and a quicker decision is expected. Meanwhile the Prime Minister, Mr Hwang Kyo-ahn, becomes by law the interim President. If Ms Park is dismissed, there must be a fresh Presidential election within a further two months. The Prime Minister’s role is largely symbolic, real power being with the President. Now Mr Hwang has an opportunity to step up. Ban Ki-moon has been mooted as presidential candidate for the Saenuri, but it is uncertain whether he could be ready if there were an early election.
Meanwhile Ms Park will endure a solitary and wintry residence in the Blue House, Korea’s equivalent of the White House. She has made apologies, but they have not been enough.