The convening of the Diet’s Deliberative Council on Political Ethics to question Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers over the scandal concerning slush funds amassed by the ruling party’s factions is merely a first step toward regaining the public's trust in politics.

It is essential to hold those involved strictly accountable and ensure all the facts will be uncovered.

The Diet should also immediately start considering reforms of the systems to inject more transparency and accountability into political funding.

The Lower House’s ethics council session will be attended by five LDP legislators. They include four members from the faction once led by former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and one belonging to the group headed by Toshihiro Nikai, a former LDP secretary-general.

The Abe faction attendees will be Ryu Shionoya, a former education minister who heads the Abe faction’s 15-member executive board as well as former Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno and two others who served as the faction’s secretary-general.

The Nikai group lawmaker who will be questioned at the session is Ryota Takeda, a former internal affairs minister who also served as the faction’s secretary-general.

Notably absent are Nikai, the head of the faction, and Koichi Hagiuda, the former LDP policy chief, one of the “Group of Five” top Abe faction executives who failed to report 27 million yen ($179,500) of political funds in five years.

The lineup of the politicians to be questioned is far from sufficient. The scope of attendees must be expanded in the future to get to the bottom of the scandal.

The Upper House's ethics council should also be promptly convened. In the Abe faction, it is said that all income collected through fund-raising parties by Upper House members facing re-election was fully returned to the politicians without reporting it.

Without hearing from Upper House members involved in shady funding, the entire picture of the LDP’s operations to build up slush funds cannot be grasped.

Initially, the LDP proposed that only Shionoya and Takeda would attend the session, but the ruling party agreed to add senior executives from the Abe faction to the list in response to severe criticism from the opposition camp.

It is clear that the LDP is maneuvering to secure the opposition's cooperation for the passage of the fiscal 2024 budget through the Lower House.

By using the issue of ethics council sessions merely as a bargaining chip in parliamentary negotiations, the ruling party is showing a disturbing lack of political integrity.

The Deliberative Council on Political Ethics was established in both houses of the Diet in 1985, aiming to enhance the legislature’s ethical oversight and accountability functions after former Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka was convicted in the first trial of the so-called Lockheed bribery scandal.

Unlike Diet sessions to question sworn witnesses, false statements at the council’s session cannot be charged with perjury, and unlike sessions to question unsworn witnesses, members of the public are not allowed to attend ethics council sessions.

Despite this, it has taken a long time to convene ethics council sessions, raising doubts about the LDP's commitment to taking effective actions to dispel public distrust.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has also failed to provide effective political leadership in this matter while he repeatedly urged those involved to "fulfill their responsibility to explain.”

The Code of Political Ethics, adopted alongside the establishment of the Deliberative Council on Political Ethics, states that "when a Diet member comes under suspicion (of an unethical act), the member must try to clarify the suspicion with a sincere attitude and make clear his or her responsibility."

Over time, eight Lower House members have attended the house’s ethics council sessions to date, but in many of these cases, the lawmakers were deemed to have fulfilled their "purification" through one-sided explanations.

Mere ceremonial sessions to allow politicians to avoid being held strictly accountable without telling the entire truth must not be repeated.

Although sessions are, in principle, not open to the public, they can be made public with the consent of the person involved.

The attendees should be questioned about related issues in a way that is visible to the public eye.

If the politicians fail to offer straightforward answers to questions or demonstrate “a sincere attitude,” it may become necessary to summon them to Diet sessions as unsworn or sworn witnesses to make them answer questions related to the scandal.

-- The Asahi Shimbun, Feb. 22

QOSHE - EDITORIAL: Ethics council just the start to restoring public trust in politics - The Asahi Shimbun
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EDITORIAL: Ethics council just the start to restoring public trust in politics

26 0
22.02.2024

The convening of the Diet’s Deliberative Council on Political Ethics to question Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers over the scandal concerning slush funds amassed by the ruling party’s factions is merely a first step toward regaining the public's trust in politics.

It is essential to hold those involved strictly accountable and ensure all the facts will be uncovered.

The Diet should also immediately start considering reforms of the systems to inject more transparency and accountability into political funding.

The Lower House’s ethics council session will be attended by five LDP legislators. They include four members from the faction once led by former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and one belonging to the group headed by Toshihiro Nikai, a former LDP secretary-general.

The Abe faction attendees will be Ryu Shionoya, a former education minister who heads the Abe faction’s 15-member executive board as well as former Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno and two others who served as the faction’s secretary-general.

The Nikai group lawmaker who will be questioned at the session is Ryota Takeda, a former internal affairs minister who also........

© The Asahi Shimbun


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