South Korea's opposition-controlled parliament has introduced an impeachment motion against President Park Geun-hye, setting up a likely vote on Friday on whether to suspend her powers over a political scandal.
A parliamentary official reported the motion on Thursday to a plenary session, which means an impeachment vote must take place between 24 and 72 hours. Friday is the final day of the current parliamentary regular session.
The motion needs two-thirds approval in the 300-seat parliament to pass. Political observers say the opposition and anti-Park independents have 172 seats. They appear to have secured enough support from ruling party dissenters to get an impeachment.
Al Jazeera's Harry Fawcett, reporting from the capital Seoul, said the vote has to happen in the coming hours.
"If she is impeached, President Park said she would not resign. She will wait for the Constitutional Court to deliver a final verdict," he said.
The country's Constitutional Court will have up to 180 days to determine whether to formally end Park's presidency. During the court deliberation, Park would be suspended as president but not removed, with her duties temporarily transferred to the prime minister until the court reaches a decision on whether her impeachment is constitutional.
Prosecutors say Park colluded in the criminal activities of a longtime confidante to manipulate government affairs and extort businesses.
The confidante, Choi Soon-sil, and two of Park's former aides allegedly linked to the scandal have been indicted.
Park, who has immunity from prosecution while in office, has refused to meet prosecutors investigating the scandal.
Park impeachment filed as South Koreans step up protest
Park has publicly apologised over the scandal three times and acknowledged that she received help from Choi in editing her speeches and with unspecified "public relations" matters.
Park has denied involvement in Choi's alleged criminal activities.
Robert Kelly, a professor of international relations at Pusan National University, said if the situation was not resolved soon, South Korea could see even bigger protests in the comings months.
"There have been six weeks of protest and more than a million people have been on the streets. There is a fear that there could be civil unrest," Kelly told Al Jazeera.
Hundreds of thousands of people calling for Park's removal have rallied near her presidential place of Blue House for six straight Saturdays, and her approval ratings have plunged to four percent, the lowest among South Korean leaders since democracy came in the late 1980s.
An opinion survey released on Thursday showed about 78 percent of respondents supported Park's impeachment.
Park is the daughter of late dictator Park Chung-hee, who ruled the country for 18 years until his 1979 assassination.
Choi is a daughter of Choi Tae-min, a purported cult leader who served as a mentor for Park Geun-hye until his death in 1994.
Park, whose mother was assassinated in 1974, described Choi Soon-sil as someone "who helped me when I had difficulties" in the past.
Park's ties with Choi Tae-min, who has faced a series of corruption scandals, have long dogged her political career. Many criticise her for maintaining ties with the Choi family and lacking transparency on key decisions.
Park, whose term is to end in early 2018, has said she would stand down if parliament arranges a stable power transfer. Her opponents have called the overture a stalling tactic to buy time and find ways to survive the scandal.
Source: Al Jazeera And News Agencies