Prime Minister Kishida Mulls Sacking of Abe Faction from Cabinet, Party Posts

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida answers questions from reporters at the Prime Minister’s Office on Monday.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida may sack Abe faction lawmakers who hold key positions in the Cabinet and ruling Liberal Democratic Party over allegations of kickbacks from party fundraising, sources told The Yomiuri Shimbun. The prime minister, who is also LDP president, plans to hammer out the scale of the shake-up and its timing, according to the sources.

“I take seriously the growing concerns of the people, and feel the urgency of the matter,” said Kishida in the Prime Minister’s Office on Monday morning. “I want to consider appropriate measures at the right time to bring back public trust and avoid slowing down the government.”

The faction, once led by former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, includes Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno and economy minister Yasutoshi Nishimura, who are suspected of taking kickbacks. The LDP’s largest faction boasts two additional Cabinet posts in Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Junji Suzuki and Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Ichiro Miyashita, both of whom have denied taking kickbacks. The faction also accounts for five state ministers and six parliamentary vice-ministers.

In the LDP’s leadership, Koichi Hagiuda serves as chairperson of the Policy Research Council, Tsuyoshi Takagi serves as chairperson of the Diet Affairs Committee and Hiroshige Seko serves as secretary general of the House of Councillors.

As a drastic measure to tackle the allegations, some in the LDP have suggested replacing all Abe-faction lawmakers who hold any of the top three positions in a ministry: minister, state minister or parliamentary vice-minister.

Kishida is believed to be eyeing a change of ministers and party executives as early as Wednesday, right after the Diet session ends, as doing so during the session could create chaos.

On Sunday, the prime minister met with Hagiuda at a hotel in Tokyo and with LDP Secretary General Toshimitsu Motegi and General Council Chairperson Hiroshi Moriyama at the prime minister’s official residence to discuss how to respond.