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EDITORIAL | Why Spare Kishida from LDP Party Funds Mess Fallout? 

Why did Prime Minister Fumio Kishida escape punishment when charges were filed against the person formerly in charge of accounting for the Kishida faction?



Prime Minister Fumio Kishida responds to questions from the press interview after receiving the results of the Liberal Democratic Party Disciplinary Committee on April 4. At the Prime Minister's Office (©Sankei by Ataru Haruna)

A meeting of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) Party Ethics Committee held on April 4 decided to punish 39 Diet members of the Abe and Nikai factions. It held them responsible for their involvement in the non-recorded income from factional parties scandal. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida was not among them.

There have been inadequate efforts to unravel the truth. In the end, these punishments weren't handed down until two and a half months after the Special Investigation Department of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office concluded its investigation.

The LDP's Disciplinary Committee announces the punishments it has decided for (from left) Tatsu Shionoya, Hiroshige Seko, Hirofumi Shimomura, Yasutoshi Nishimura, and Takeshi Takagi, among others, in Tokyo on April 4. (©Kyodo)

Doling Out Punishments

Regarding leaders of the Abe faction, two received the second most serious punishment and were asked to leave the party. One was Ryu Shionoya, former minister of education, culture, sports, science and technology, who previously served as chairman of the Abe faction. The other was Hiroshige Seko, former LDP secretary-general in the House of Councilors and Abe faction head in that body. Other Diet members were suspended from party membership, deemed ineligible to hold party offices, or received reprimands. 

Shioya, Seko, and other faction leaders had offered excuses, such as they were "unaware" that the payments had not been recorded. But since they were in a position to stop the kickbacks, their punishment was certainly justified. 

Taking Responsibility at the Top

What is difficult to understand is why Prime Minister Kishida and former LDP secretary-general Toshihiro Nikai escaped punishment altogether. After all, charges have been filed against the person formerly in charge of accounting for the Kishida faction. And it is unfathomable why the Prime Minister himself escaped any punishment whatsoever. 

Kishida on the evening of April 4 apologized for the distrust in politics the affair had caused, and vowed to pursue political reform. However, he made no mention of any personal punishment to accept responsibility. 

Doesn't that appear self-serving?

Regarding Nikai, who formerly headed another major LDP faction, LDP executives concluded that he had already accepted political responsibility. Nikai announced he would not run in the next general election. Nevertheless, a distinction should be made between his personal announcement and the LDP's official punishment.

The LDP Disciplinary Committee in a meeting. (From center left) Vice Chairman Norihisa Tamura, Secretary General Toshimitsu Mogi, and Chairman Ichiro Aizawa, at LDP Headquarters on April 4. (©Sankei by Ataru Haruna)

No Progress Toward the Truth

The crux of the problem is that no progress has been made in revealing exactly what occurred. Who started the system of not recording the money given back to individual Diet members? Why did they ignore the mandatory political funds' income reports? When did they do so, and why? 

It appears that the late Shinzo Abe had put a stop to the practice of kickbacks within his own faction. How then did it get restarted? All of this is still obscured. 

Too much remains unexplained. Therefore, even though the LDP has dished out punishments, it seems unlikely that the public will be satisfied with those measures alone. The Prime Minister and the LDP need to continue their work to get to the bottom of the affair. 

Next Steps to Restoring Confidence

We need to urgently uncover the truth so that we may prevent any repetition. Why not consider issuing subpoenas to witnesses who could be charged with lying under oath if they provided false testimony? 

To get to the truth, it is also essential that we revise the Political Funds Control Act. While an amendment that places responsibility squarely on the shoulders of the individual Diet member is certainly easy to understand, at the very least a system of collective responsibility should be part of the law. We should also demand public disclosure of the uses made of the money disbursed by political parties to Diet members. 

As soon as the LDP establishes its policy on this issue, the ruling and opposition parties should enter into consultations. Clarifying the responsibilities of Diet members and ensuring transparency in political funding is essential to restoring the public trust.


(Read the editorial in Japanese.)

Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun