Taiwan's opposition has launched a motion to oust President Chen Shui-ban, in the wake of a series of scandals.
Mr Chen's popularity has plummeted since the scandals
In a special session of parliament, lawmakers voted 113-96 to hold hearings on whether Mr Chen should be recalled.
Mr Chen now has one week to defend himself. Lawmakers are due to vote on 27 June on whether to hold a public referendum to recall the president.
But the opposition is unlikely to secure the two-thirds majority it needs to order the public vote, analysts say.
It has only a slim majority in the legislature and would need the support of independents and members of Mr Chen's own party for the motion to pass.
Mr Chen has been facing mounting anger over a series of alleged scandals involving advisers and relatives, most recently when his son-in-law was detained in connection with allegations of insider trading.
On 1 June he ceded some of his powers to the prime minister to try and deflect the political crisis. But this failed to placate the opposition, which pushed for the vote in the legislature.
It is the first time an attempt has been made to formally recall any Taiwanese president, the BBC's Caroline Gluck says.
The opposition is unlikely to achieve the majority it needs
The vote was followed by tears and chanting from opposition politicians, while members of the ruling party held banners against the motion.
Mr Chen now has a week to issue a statement in his defence, after which the legislature begins a week of debates on his future ahead of the final vote.
The opposition Kuomintang says it hopes some members of Mr Chen's ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) will back their motion.
"We hope DPP legislators can wake up to the truth, push one of their own severely according to law in order to uphold justice and stand on the side of the people," Tina Pan of the Kuomintang told reporters.
Ruling party lawmakers have accused the opposition of trying to create social and political unrest, our correspondent says.