December 9, 2016 / 10:03 AM / 8 months ago

Q&A: South Korean parliament votes to impeach President Park

Lawmakers attend a plenary session to vote on the impeachment bill of President Park Geun-hye at the National Assembly in Seoul, South Korea, December 9, 2016.Kim Hong-Ji

SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea's parliament voted on Friday to impeach President Park Geun-hye over an influence-peddling scandal.

The Constitutional Court must decide whether to uphold the motion, a process that could take up to 180 days. Under the constitution, Park's duties will be assumed by Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn on an interim basis until the court rules.

Following are some questions and answers about the crisis:

Q. What powers does Park lose, and when?

A. Park's governing power as head of the executive branch is suspended when notice of parliament's impeachment decision is delivered to the presidential Blue House, expected later on Friday. Prime Minister Hwang then assumes the authority of the president.

Q. What happens to Park now?

A. Park retains the title of president while the Constitutional Court reviews the impeachment motion and she remains in the Blue House presidential complex, under the protection of the presidential security service. She continues to earn her presidential salary and is accorded the formal protocols of the office.

Q. What are the prime minister's powers and limits as acting president?

A. There is no law stating the prime minister's powers and limits as acting leader. Scholars are divided over whether the role should entail full powers of the president or doing the minimum to keep the government operating. In 2004, during former President Roh Moo-hyun's impeachment proceedings, then-Prime Minister Goh Kun leaned toward the latter.

Q. When is the Constitutional Court's ruling expected?

A. The law governing the Constitutional Court states it has 180 days to rule from the time it gets parliament's request for impeachment proceedings, which took place on Friday. The court is expected to take at least 60 days to decide.

Q. What will the Constitutional Court do as part of its review?

A. Six or more of the court's nine judges must approve the motion for it to be upheld. The court will hear arguments from the two sides - the chair of parliament's Judiciary Committee for the impeachment and Park's lawyers. It is likely to hold public hearings.

Q. What happens if the Constitutional Court upholds parliament's impeachment decision?

A. The president is immediately removed from office. The constitution states that a successor must be elected within 60 days of a removal, to a full five-year term.

Q. What happens if the Constitutional Court strikes down parliament's impeachment vote?

A. President Park returns to her duties as head of the executive branch. Her presidential term is scheduled to end in February 2018.

Reporting by Joyce Lee

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