Dec 19, 2019 - Politics & Policy

What impeaching leaders looks like around the world

South Korea's constitutional court rules on President Park Geun-hye's impeachment, March 10, 2017. Photo: Kim Min-Hee/Pool/Getty Images

President Trump may only be the third American president to be impeached, but a quick look around the world might give him comfort.

By the numbers: “Since 1990, at least 132 different heads of state have faced some 272 impeachment proposals in 63 countries,” per the Economist. Most leaders survive most impeachment attempts, as Trump almost certainly will.

The history: The roots of impeachment date back to ancient Germany, but the first known instance came in England in 1376 with the removal of ministers to King Edward III, according to the Economist.

  • “The constitutions of 94% of countries with presidents include mechanisms for removing them from office. Even some countries without presidents, such as Britain, allow for impeachment.”
  • “Leaders in nearly half of the countries that transitioned to presidential democracy from the mid-1970s onwards faced threats of impeachment from the legislature between 1974 and 2003.”
  • “Several notable instances of impeachment-related departures include Brazil’s Fernando Collor (1992)... Peru’s Alberto Fujimori (2000)... the Philippines’ Joseph Estrada and Indonesia’s Abdurrahman Wahid (2001) and South Korea’s Park Geun-hye (2017).”

The criteria vary: “In Tanzania, the president can be impeached if he has ‘conducted himself in a manner which lowers the esteem of the office of president.’ Honduran presidents can be impeached for incompetence. In Ghana, disrepute, ridicule or contempt of office suffice.”

So do the procedures. In most countries, the final verdict comes from a court or constitutional council.

  • Removal from office also triggers fresh elections in most countries, rather than a transition to the vice president.

Go deeper: Putin calls Trump impeachment process "far-fetched"

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