South Korean President Park Geun-hye’s conditional resignation offer appears to be causing cracks in what previously had been a strong push for her impeachment.
Park has offered to leave office if parliament arranges a safe transfer of power, triggering an immediate backlash from opposition parties, which called the overture a stalling tactic to help the president navigate through a huge political scandal involving her shadowy confidante.
Leaders of the country’s three main opposition parties met yesterday and agreed to stick with their plan to try to vote on an impeachment motion as early as tomorrow. But they also said they would meet again if that plan does not work, meaning they are bracing for the possibility that a vote tomorrow might not take place.
Much of their hesitation to pick a clear date is due to the fact that there are not enough opposition MPs to pass an impeachment through parliament, and they would need help from dissenters in Park’s ruling Saenuri Party.
The three opposition parties and anti-Park independent MPs have a total of 172 seats in the 300-seat National Assembly. A passage of an impeachment motion requires at least 200 votes in favour. About 40 ruling party MPs have expressed their willingness to vote to oust Park.
But after her resignation offer on Tuesday anti-Park MPs gathered and agreed it would be best for her to resign in April, after the installation of a neutral Cabinet that can help ensure a stable power transfer. They said they would still take part in a possible impeachment vote on 9 December if details for an April resignation are not worked out through negotiations, Hwang’s office said.
Opposition parties have previously said a vote on Park’s impeachment would take place either tomorrow or 9 December, because parliamentary plenary sessions are already scheduled on those days.
“It’s true that some cracks have taken place at anti-Park forces in the Saenuri Party after her speech,” said an official at the main opposition Democratic Party, formerly known by its Korean-language name, Minjoo.
The official said opposition parties are using unofficial, backroom channels to see if they can still secure enough Saenuri MPs who would align with their impeachment drive.
If impeached, Park’s powers would be suspended until the Constitutional Court makes a ruling on her fate.