Ishihara resigns as special adviser to Kishida Cabinet

TOKYO (Jiji Press) — Nobuteru Ishihara, former secretary general of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, resigned on Friday as a special adviser to the Cabinet over a related political group’s controversial receipt of a government subsidy for COVID-19 relief.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters that Ishihara was stepping down. The departure is likely to be a blow to the prime minister, who appointed Ishihara as special adviser only a week earlier.

Kishida apparently aimed to put an end to the matter before answering questions at meetings starting next week of the Budget Committees of both chambers of the Diet.

But opposition forces are still expected to grill Kishida over his responsibility for the appointment. They will also question the receipt of the employment adjustment subsidy by a political group linked to State Environment Minister Toshitaka Ooka.

According to Kishida, Ishihara told him by phone that the subsidy was received after fair procedures but he did not want to disturb the prime minister’s work. The resignation offer was approved on Friday.

“The confusion is undeniable. I’m sorry,” Kishida told reporters.

Kishida also said that Ooka “must do his best to explain” the matter.

Ishihara was defeated in the Oct. 31 election for the House of Representatives.

On Dec. 3, however, he was appointed a special adviser to the cabinet in charge of an initiative to make Japan a tourism-oriented country.

The appointment met criticism as Ishihara is personally close to the prime minister.

Later, it came to light that the LDP’s Tokyo No. 8 district chapter, headed by Ishihara, received last year an employment adjustment subsidy totaling ¥600,000.

The subsidy system has been introduced to protect employment at companies that suffered a sales plunge amid the coronavirus crisis. It is not illegal for political groups to receive the subsidy, but the receipt of the aid by such groups may appear as if they are abusing the system.

Even within the LDP-led ruling coalition, some members said that the receipt of the subsidy by Ishihara’s group was inappropriate.

Also last year, the LDP’s No. 1 district chapter of Shiga Prefecture, headed by Ooka, received some ¥300,000 in employment adjustment money.

Ooka said in a statement on Friday that he has judged that the receipt of the funds may be misunderstood by people, adding that he will return the money swiftly.