4 Ministers to be Replaced Amid Hidden Funds Scandal; Some Lower-Ranking Abe Faction Officials to Remain

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida speaks to reporters at the Prime Minister’s Office on Wednesday morning.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is expected to replace four Cabinet ministers and five senior vice ministers who are members of the Liberal Democratic Party’s Abe faction, which is under a cloud of allegations that some of them received off-the-books kickbacks from political party fundraising revenue. Some of the six parliamentary secretaries from the faction will remain in their posts, meaning that members of the Abe faction, the largest faction in the LDP, are not expected to be completely removed from the government.

The Abe faction was once led by the late Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

The prime minister is to hold a press conference Wednesday evening after the Diet session closes to explain his plan for replacing ministers from the Abe faction. Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno; Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura; Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Junji Suzuki; Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Ichiro Miyashita; and five senior vice ministers are expected to be replaced on Thursday.

Final arrangements are being made to appoint Yoshimasa Hayashi, a former foreign minister and member of the Kishida faction, as Matsuno’s successor.

Kishida, who is also LDP president, told reporters Wednesday morning at the Prime Minister’s Office that he has instructed the secretariat of the Kishida faction, which he led until recently, “to investigate and explain [the situation] thoroughly to the authorities and take appropriate action if any corrections are necessary.” The faction is also suspected of underreporting revenue from fundraising parties in its political fund reports.

Kishida seems to have decided that the five senior vice ministers are mid-level Diet members who are in a position to know about the reality behind the allegations against the faction and cannot be absolved of responsibility. Only some of the six parliamentary secretaries from the Abe faction, who are mainly younger members, are likely to be replaced, as it is considered appropriate to respond according to the degree of their involvement in the allegations.

Several key LDP officials suspected of involvement in the allegations are likely to resign. Koichi Hagiuda, chairperson of the Policy Research Council, plans to submit his resignation on Thursday. Hagiuda is making arrangements to continue his duties until his successor is chosen. The prime minister also intends to replace Tsuyoshi Takagi, chairperson of the LDP’s Diet Affairs Committee, and Hiroshige Seko, the LDP’s secretary general in the House of Councillors.

The Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan submitted a no-confidence motion against the Kishida Cabinet to the House of Representatives on Wednesday. The resolution was rejected at a plenary session of the house by the Liberal Democratic Party, Komeito and others, and the 212th extraordinary session of the Diet was adjourned Wednesday afternoon.