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Politics & Security

EDITORIAL | After Ikeda's Arrest, Only Thorough Reform Will Restore Faith in Politics

A current Diet member's arrest in the slush fund scandal threatens to further erode public confidence in the political system and must be addressed promptly.

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The special investigation unit at the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office carry seized items from the Nagoya office of lower house lawmaker Yoshitaka Ikeda on December 27. (©Kyodo)

The Special Investigation Department of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office announced the arrest of Yoshitaka Ikeda on suspicion of violating the Political Funds Control Act. Formerly, Ikeda served as the Vice Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. 

Ikeda was a member of the Abe faction within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). But the party expelled him after his arrest. The scandal surrounding the failure to report income from political fundraising parties has now reached the point where the criminal responsibility of a sitting Diet member is being considered. 

Distrust in politics will inevitably snowball. Therefore, the LDP must take the situation seriously.

 The special investigation unit at the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office carries boxes of seized items from Yoshitaka Ikeda's Nagoya office on December 27. (©Kyodo)

What Happened in Ikeda's Case

Among other things, Ikeda is suspected of not recording in his political funds report a total of ¥48.26 million JPY (over $330,000 USD). The funds were from donations received through the LDP's Abe faction between 2018 and 2020. He is accused of failing to submit the report to tax authorities while falsifying his statements of income. 

Ikeda corrected the income and expenditure reports of related groups for the years in question in December 2023. That was after the investigation by the Special Investigation Department was revealed. However, his revisions alone are not enough to settle the matter. If he indeed diverted political funds to a slush fund, that would be a betrayal of the Japanese people. 

Ikeda has a responsibility to offer a full accounting to the Japanese public. However, he has not done so up to now. The LDP is also at fault for failing to strongly insist that Ikeda provide a full explanation. 

Reporters gathered outside the office of lower house lawmaker Yoshitaka Ikeda, who was arrested on suspicion of violating the Political Funds Control Act. A sign at the entrance stated, "Office temporarily closed." Tempaku Ward, Nagoya, on the afternoon of January 7. (©Kyodo)

Taking Responsibility for the Scandal

Many of the individuals implicated in the fundraising scandal have refused to comment based on the excuse that the incidents in question are still under investigation. That argument, however, is dubious, to say the least.

It is the innate responsibility of politicians who have been entrusted with power by the people to clarify the facts when there are allegations of their involvement in wrongdoing. They also must apologize to the public for any mistakes they may have made. 

We are now in an era where compliance with laws and regulations has become even more important. There is a greater need than ever before for accountability in various fields. Sometimes it seems like our politicians are the most evasive in that regard. This attitude has led to growing distrust in politics. 

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Ikeda is the third sitting member of the Diet to be arrested since 2023, following Masatoshi Akimoto and Mito Kakizawa. The situation defies belief. 

Recognizing the Problem

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is establishing a political reform headquarters within the LDP to address the scandal. It will report directly to him as party president. 

Restoring faith in politics is certainly a pressing issue. But how can reforms be instituted without proper recognition of current problems? It requires mutual reflection on errors made and the provision of adequate explanations to the people before trust can be restored. Simply making minor reforms without addressing the heart of the problem would be unforgivable. 

The Special Investigation Department is expected to move forward with the filing of charges against members of the Diet who are suspected of failing to properly record donations they received from related organizations, even though they were receiving cash paybacks. Furthermore, the faction leaders who built this system will also likely be held accountable. 

Finally, the public will judge how the prosecutors pursue their investigation as severely as they now judge politics. 

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(Read the editorial in Japanese.)

Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun

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