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EDITORIAL | Urgent Issues Await New Kishida Cabinet After Fund Scandal

While the facts behind the LDP scandal must be fully explained, the new Kishida Cabinet cannot delay completing the budget and tackling urgent national issues.



The new Kishida cabinet took a commemorative photo after the attestation ceremony for the new ministers. Shown [from left] are Takeshi Saito, Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry; Takeaki Matsumoto, Minister of Internal Affairs and Communications; Prime Minister Fumio Kishida; Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshimasa Hayashi and Minister of Agriculture Tetsushi Sakamoto. (© Sankei by Yuta Yasumoto]

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has replaced all four Cabinet ministers affiliated with the Abe faction within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno and Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Yasutoshi Nishimura were among them. 

Effectively, they were dismissed from office over the scandal regarding kickback payments from political fundraising parties hosted by the faction. All of their replacements are Diet members who belong to other factions of the LDP or are unaffiliated with any. 

Other Abe faction members were also replaced. LDP Secretary General Takeshi Takagi, who was also chairperson of the LDP Diet Affairs Committee, was one. Others included Koichi Hagiuda, chairman of the LDP Policy Research Council, and Hiroshige Seko, secretary general in the House of Councilors. 

Takagi, Matsuno, Nishimura, Hagiuda, and Seko are influential members of the Abe faction. In fact, they are sometimes collectively referred to as the "Group of Five." All are suspected of having received kickbacks from their faction for exceeding their sales quota for party tickets.

PM Kishida and others bow after the resolution of no confidence in the Cabinet was rejected at a plenary session of the Lower House on December 13. (© Kyodo)

The Public Wants Answers ー Now

The men holding the three key political positions in the Kishida administration have now been replaced due to the scandal. However, the timing for changing a slew of major Cabinet ministers is extremely unusual. After all, the cabinet is just now in the final stages of compiling the budget. 

The Prime Minister, the Liberal Democratic Party as a whole, and all factions need to reflect hard on this situation. 

Even if the decision to exclude all members of the Abe faction from important posts was the correct decision, that hardly brings this unfortunate chapter to a close.  

That is because the LDP, its factions, and Diet members have not yet provided a full accounting to the Japanese people. Those involved should not be allowed to avoid disclosing the facts by hiding behind the excuse of an ongoing investigation. 


Kishida Vows to be a 'Fireball'

Speaking at a press conference, Kishida vowed, "In order to restore trust among the people, I will act as a fireball and stand at the forefront." 

If that is the case, Prime Minister Kishida himself should take the lead in the investigation. He should set the deadlines and so on, rather than leaving it to factions or members of the Diet. Public trust cannot be restored unless the facts are made clear to the public in a timely fashion.

Abe faction member Hiroyuki Miyazawa, former deputy defense minister, was one of the officials who were replaced. He admitted receiving money back from the faction. However, he said that the reason he did not record the payments in his political funding reports was that, "The faction instructed me not to record them."

LDP Deputy Defense Minister Hiroyuki Miyazawa talks to reporters after the plenary session of the House of Representatives of the Diet on December 13 (© Sankei by Ataru Haruna)

There were also other reports that the faction told its members not to talk about the arrangement.

Ryu Shionoya, the former minister of education, culture, sports, science, and technology, heads the Abe faction. He and Takagi, the secretary general, must explain whether the faction did in fact instruct its members not to record the income information and whether they also imposed a gag order. 

Other Factions Have Problems, Too

Other factions within the LDP also apparently have problems regarding political funding. For one thing, suspicions have emerged that the Kishida faction also did not record some of the excess income it received. The Nikai faction too has been accused of underreporting.

The Political Funds Control Act regards political funds as "public funds." It aims "to ensure that political activities are conducted under constant public scrutiny and criticism." 

The fact that the parties concerned tried to avoid public scrutiny by not recording income and expenditures in their reports shows blatant disregard for the principle behind the Act. Their conduct is nothing less than a betrayal of the Japanese people.

Political reforms are needed to prevent similar scandals from occurring again in the future. They should include amendments to the Political Funds Control Act. 


Political Reforms and Public Accountability

There have been previous issues involving the nexus of politics and money. There was, for example, the Recruit Scandal that surfaced in 1988. And the Japan Dental Federation illegal donation scandal of 2004. In that case, ¥100 million JPY (around $700,000 USD) was funneled to the former Hashimoto faction of the LDP. In each of those instances, the Act was amended. 

Nonetheless, the current scandal involving the Abe faction shows that the current provisions of the Act are still inadequate. The focus of the review will likely be on such things as strengthening penalties and the scope of information included in income and expenditure reports.

PM Fumio Kishida gives a statement at the Lower House Budget Committee on November 21. (© Sankei by Ataru Haruna)

During the just completed extraordinary session of the Diet, important reforms were again put off. One was the ¥1 million JPY per month ($7,000 USD) allowance provided to every Diet member for research, travel, and communications expenses. (Previously this was the allowance for "documents, communication, travel, and accommodation.") 

Nevertheless, there should be public disclosure of how this money was used. We hope that such reforms will be enacted with certainty in the next regular session of the Diet in 2024. 

Allow No Delay in the Nation's Business

There is another important consideration. No stagnation in the conduct of national affairs should be allowed. 

The FY2024 budget must be compiled within this fiscal year. It is also imperative to steadily pursue countermeasures to cope with rising prices and get wage increases back on track. 

Then, too, countermeasures to deal with declining births are an urgent issue. They are essential to securing our future workforce and building a sustainable social security system.

Russia continues to pursue its invasion of Ukraine, and the Middle East situation is also tense. Meanwhile, China is building up its arsenal as it eyes swallowing up Taiwan. Nearby, North Korea continues to develop nuclear weapons and missiles.

As Japan is surrounded by dictatorships in China, Russia, and North Korea, adeptly steering foreign and security policies is extremely important. Unless we fundamentally strengthen our defense capabilities, we will not be able to protect the nation and its people.


Kishida must bear these considerations in mind and do everything possible to ensure smooth policy implementation.


(Read the editorial in Japanese.)

Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun

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