Government mulls replacing reconstruction minister Akiba

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Left: Reconstruction minister Kenya Akiba
Right: Parliamentary Vice Minister for Internal Affairs and Communications Mio Sugita

The government and ruling parties are considering the ouster of reconstruction minister Kenya Akiba, it has been learned.

Akiba has come under fire from opposition parties over a political funds scandal and his connections to the Unification Church. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida could replace the embattled lawmaker before the year-end after coordinating with the ruling parties, sources said.

Akiba is a seven-time elected House of Representatives member who belongs to the Liberal Democratic Party faction led by LDP Secretary General Toshimitsu Motegi. Akiba first became a minister in August, as part of Kishida’s Cabinet reshuffle.

During the extraordinary Diet session, Akiba faced intense scrutiny from opposition parties over allegations that he made illegal payments to two secretaries in last year’s lower house election, and that a political party branch he heads had paid membership fees to an organization associated with the Unification Church — officially known as the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification.

Akiba has denied violating the Public Offices Election Law and remains determined to continue serving as a minister. “I’d like to fulfill my responsibility to provide detailed explanations,” he said.

Kishida, meanwhile, has said, “In addition to his work as a reconstruction minister, it’s important that he fulfill his accountability to the Diet.”

However, controversy will inevitably continue to swirl around Akiba during the ordinary Diet session slated to start in January, and some within the government and the ruling parties have expressed concern that deliberations on such topics as the budget for the next fiscal year could be hindered.

There also have been calls to replace other officials who have caused anxiety, such as Mio Sugita, parliamentary vice minister for internal affairs and communications, who described LGBT couples as “unproductive” in a monthly magazine and a blog. She retracted the comment and apologized on Dec. 2.