Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is grossly mistaken if he thinks his ban of fund-raising parties by factions of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party for the time being will help him ride out the political backlash triggered by alleged dubious accounting practices related to such events.

This grave scandal can seriously erode public confidence in the political system. First of all, Kishida should spearhead the party’s efforts to uncover the facts and disclose them to the public.

Kishida on Dec. 6 met with senior party officials at the LDP headquarters to discuss the matter and agreed on a voluntary ban on factional political fund-raising parties until measures to restore trust are implemented.

The restriction will also be applied to factional year-end and New Year parties.

Speaking with reporters after the meeting, Kishida said, “The entire party must unite and respond (to the affair),” finally taking the initiative to address the scandal after weeks of leaving the matter to the factions.

The ruling party’s early responses to the allegations displayed a surprising lack of urgency and awareness of the seriousness of the problem.

The lid on the scandal was blown off in November last year when the Japanese Communist Party's official newspaper Shimbun Akahata (red flag newspaper) revealed that there were numerous unreported earnings of large sums related to fund-raising parties in the political fund income and expenditure reports of LDP factions.

The newspaper said the missing income entries represented 40 million yen ($272,400) of revenue in total over four years from 2018 to 2021, and a criminal complaint was filed for suspected violation of the Political Fund Control Law for misreporting.

The allegations were taken seriously by some politicians who warned that this could shake the foundations of the LDP, but the factions did nothing but repeatedly revised the reports to correct simple “clerical errors.”

Until Kishida held the meeting of party executives on Dec. 6, there were few signs the LDP recognized the scandal as a matter of concern for the entire party.

This lack of concern continued even after The Asahi Shimbun on Dec. 1 reported the suspicion that the largest LDP faction, which was once led by former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, created a slush fund by pooling some of the money collected through these fund-raising parties, amassing more than 100 million yen in the undeclared fund over a five-year period.

The LDP’s factions hold parties to raise political funds usually once a year, and this year's events were staged in April and May. As there were no plans to hold such parties for the time being, the self-restraint seems to be little more than a political gesture.

The first step the LDP should take in its efforts to regain public trust is the party headquarters’ inquiry into the facts by questioning the factions about their management of and reporting of the actual flow of funds surrounding the parties to directly address the concerns.

As part of political reform, a legal restriction was introduced to limit political donations by businesses and other organizations to contributions to political parties and their branches, but the traditional avenue to provide political funds through the purchase of party tickets was kept intact.

Moreover, while the requirement to report the names of donors in the political funding reports is applied to all ordinary straightforward donations exceeding 50,000 yen, the threshold is more than 200,000 yen for party tickets, causing a lack of transparency in this channel of funding.

Needless to say, after clarifying the facts, the LDP must embark on truly effective reforms, including a fundamental review of the regulation of fund-raising parties, long criticized as “hotbeds of slush funds,” and the way related information is disclosed.

Without taking effective measures to prevent a recurrence, including amendments to the Political Fund Control Law, the LDP should not be allowed to resume holding parties.

“I will tackle this with a strong sense of crisis,” Kishida declared. As the LDP president, he is facing the difficult challenge of restoring political integrity within the party.

The question is whether he will lead a campaign to dispel mistrust without succumbing to pressure from factions.

He will face the first major test of leadership over this matter when he responds to related questions in Dec. 8 sessions focused on the matter at the Budget Committees of both Houses of the Diet.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Dec. 7

QOSHE - EDITORIAL: Kishida must not bow to pressure in tackling fund-raising scandal - The Asahi Shimbun
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EDITORIAL: Kishida must not bow to pressure in tackling fund-raising scandal

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07.12.2023

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is grossly mistaken if he thinks his ban of fund-raising parties by factions of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party for the time being will help him ride out the political backlash triggered by alleged dubious accounting practices related to such events.

This grave scandal can seriously erode public confidence in the political system. First of all, Kishida should spearhead the party’s efforts to uncover the facts and disclose them to the public.

Kishida on Dec. 6 met with senior party officials at the LDP headquarters to discuss the matter and agreed on a voluntary ban on factional political fund-raising parties until measures to restore trust are implemented.

The restriction will also be applied to factional year-end and New Year parties.

Speaking with reporters after the meeting, Kishida said, “The entire party must unite and respond (to the affair),” finally taking the initiative to address the scandal after weeks of leaving the matter to the factions.

The ruling party’s early responses to the allegations displayed a surprising lack of urgency and awareness of the seriousness of........

© The Asahi Shimbun


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