Take steps to dispel doubts and restore public trust

It is shameful that national politics have been repeatedly thrown into disarray due to a series of scandals involving Cabinet members. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida needs to make efforts to dispel the public’s distrust of his Cabinet and put it in a better position to carry out its policies.

The Budget Committee of the House of Representatives has begun full-fledged deliberations on the second supplementary budget for fiscal 2022.

Regarding the resignation of three Cabinet members in a month, Kishida said: “I take my responsibility [for my appointments] very seriously. The government will work as one to prevent delays in implementing policy measures.”

Rising prices have had a great impact on people’s lives. Specific measures are needed to promote wage hikes and help revive the economy. Fundamentally strengthening the nation’s defense capabilities is also an urgent issue.

The prime minister must restore public trust by delivering results on these key policy measures.

Kenta Izumi, president of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, raised the issue of problems linked to the Unification Church, officially known as the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification. Concerning an envisaged new law intended to provide relief to the victims of such groups’ wrongdoing, Izumi said, “A bill that is acceptable to the victims should be passed into law.” Kishida responded, “We will make every effort from a legal standpoint.”

The government has presented amendments to the bill at the request of opposition parties. In the amendments, the scope of the regulations on donations has been expanded to cover donations made through not only the sale of private homes but also business assets. However, the CDPJ and other parties have argued that the amendments are insufficient.

Unless the establishment of a legal framework is approved during the current Diet session, the Unification Church’s demands for large donations could continue unchecked. The ruling and opposition parties need to patiently discuss the matter to find common ground.

The CDPJ also focused on a political funds issue involving Reconstruction Minister Kenya Akiba. The party grilled Akiba over two matters — that a political group headed by him had paid rent to his relatives, and that his two secretaries had been paid compensation for campaign work for the lower house election last year.

Regarding the compensation, Akiba said, “They worked as staff on campaign vehicles, and the legally permitted remuneration was paid.” The CDPJ was not satisfied with this explanation and asked him to describe in detail the activities of the secretaries.

The CDPJ apparently aims to force Cabinet members to resign in succession, but the Diet should not spend all its time pursuing scandals. It is crucial to discuss various issues constructively.

There were also irregularities in the clerical procedures for the prime minister’s election campaign expenses. Many receipts that were attached to an income and expenditure report for Kishida’s campaign for last year’s lower house election reportedly did not contain the name of the payer and the purpose of the spending.

As the various purposes were listed in the report, the irregularities in the attached receipts appear to be simply errors in form. However, it is not desirable to handle documents in a manner that raises questions. Kishida should keep in mind that he is in a position to set an example as prime minister.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov. 26, 2022)