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EDITORIAL | Top of Diet Session's Agenda Must Be Political Funds Law

Holding lawmakers individually accountable for public funds is one priority of the Diet. National security and imperial succession matters need attention too.



Prime Minister Fumio Kishida holds a press conference on March 28, at the Prime Minister's Office. (© Sankei by Ataru Haruna)

The FY2024 budget has been approved, and the second half of the current Diet session is about to begin. Lawmakers are facing a host of issues they need to tackle. 

At the top of the list are the problems surrounding the nexus of "politics and money." 

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida vowed to work to restore public trust at a recent press conference. To do so, however, the Political Funds Control Act must be revised. 

The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) is expected to act soon on the issue of improperly recorded income from faction parties. For its part, the Diet should continue investigating the affair and get to the bottom of it. Then it must adopt effective measures to prevent any recurrence.

The House of Councilors approved the FY 2024 budget in its plenary session on March 28. (© Sankei by Ataru Haruna)

Holding Lawmakers Individually Accountable

As things now stand, the Diet members involved in the scandal will not be charged with violating the Political Funds Control Act unless it can be proved that they colluded with those responsible for accounting. However, such an approach does not deter lawmakers from engaging in illegal activities. 

Making Diet members personally responsible for obeying the rules would certainly be easier to understand. But at the very least we need a system of joint and several responsibilities so all parties have an incentive to comply.

Komeito, the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDP), the Japan Innovation Party (Nihon Ishin no Kai), and other parties have been calling for such a collective responsibility system. But Prime Minister Kishida has said that individual Diet members should bear greater responsibility. In any event, revision of the law should not be watered down by adding other conditions. 

Transparency must be ensured. The public should know how the political activity funds dispersed by political parties to Diet members are utilized. Prime Minister Kishida remains cautious on this point. However, the Political Funds Control Act is clear on this point. It states it is designed "to ensure that political activities are carried out subject to constant public scrutiny and criticism." Therefore, not disclosing that information would be inconsistent with the law's intent.


'Expense' Claims by Lawmakers

The nature of expenses claimed by Diet members, which are paid by taxpayers' money, should also be made public. For example, that would include research, public relations, and accommodation expenses. (Formerly this was called documents, communications, transportation, and accommodation expenses.)

Digitization is also important to facilitate searching for and analyzing documents. 

Imperial Succession and Other Issues

The second half of the Diet session also has other urgent issues to address. Progress is needed in the debate over ensuring stable succession to the imperial throne. The Prime Minister must exercise leadership if Japan is to preserve the longstanding tradition of inheriting the throne through the male line only. 

Constitutional revision is another outstanding problem. There have been no meetings of the Commission on the Constitution of the House of Representatives this Diet session. Framing draft amendments to the Constitution should not be put off any longer. 

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and his cabinet members take a bow after the FY2024 budget was approved by the House of Councillors on March 28. (© Sankei by Ataru Haruna)

National Security

Security legislation also needs a push. Other pending legislation includes the proposed Law on the Protection and Utilization of Economic Security Information. This would limit access to confidential economic security information to qualified individuals in the public and private sectors.

Amending the bill on Basic Law on Food, Agriculture and Rural Areas needs action. This bill is designed to strengthen food security.

All these laws are closely related to the safety and security of the Japanese people. That also holds true for the approval of a draft treaty related to developing a next-generation fighter jet. The treaty would establish an organization that would function as a coordination center for the joint development by Japan, the United Kingdom, and Italy. This, too, is an absolute must.

These items along with measures designed to deal with the falling birthrate, are urgently needed during the second session of the Diet. 


(Read the editorial in Japanese.)

Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun


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