Hayashi Maneuvers Thru His New Chief Cabinet Sec. Job Carefully

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshimasa Hayashi speaks at press conference at the Prime Minister’s Office on Tuesday.

TOKYO (Jiji Press) — With investigations into a political funds scandal involving factions of Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party being conducted on a full scale, Yoshimasa Hayashi started off his new job as the country’s chief cabinet secretary in a prudent manner.

Having publicly said that he aims to become prime minister one day, Hayashi has so far been playing it safe during daily press conferences as the top spokesman of the cabinet of current Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who also heads the LDP.

Many of his answers to the numerous questions related to the unfolding scandal have been that the government will act accordingly based on Kishida’s statements that he will work on regaining public confidence in politics.

The prime minister replaced Hirokazu Matsuno with Hayashi as chief cabinet secretary on Dec. 14, in response to “slush fund” allegations against the LDP’s largest faction previously led by the late former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, where Matsuno serves as a key member.

The faction allegedly kicked back revenues from fundraising party tickets sold beyond quotas set for its members. The excess funds are believed to have turned into slush funds and were not recorded in political funds reports, which is against the political funds control law.

Unlike his immediate predecessor, Hayashi has chosen to speak in words of his own for some matters.

Speaking at a press conference on the day he assumed the post of chief cabinet secretary, Hayashi, who is a member of an LDP faction led by Kishida, said, “I have not received any kickbacks.”

“All donations have been handled based on the political funds control law,” he said.

On allegations that the Kishida faction failed to report some of fundraising party revenues, Hayashi said that he will provide explanations on the matter if need.

This was a contrast to Matsuno’s flat refusal to offer any explanation on the matter due to his position representing the government during his time as chief cabinet secretary.

Hayashi has served in many cabinet posts in the past, including defense minister, agriculture minister and education minister, with many of such opportunities coming in the wake of sudden resignations of his predecessors.

“With my birthday being on Jan. 19, people call me (Mr.) 119,” Hayashi told a television program on Dec. 17, referring to Japan’s emergency telephone number 119.

“He is smart and can handle anything,” an LDP official said of Hayashi.

Hayashi ran, though unsuccessfully, as a candidate in the 2012 LDP presidential race.

Some speculate that Kishida is wary of Hayashi because of his ambitions of becoming prime minister one day.

The next focal point of the Kishida administration will be on how the two central figures of the cabinet will work together under the current tricky environment.

On Hayashi returning to the cabinet just three months after stepping down as foreign minister in a cabinet reshuffle held in September, a government official said that Hayashi as chief cabinet secretary has more media exposure than any other minister due to press conferences being held every day.

“I’m sure he’s filled with glee,” a government official said.

Asked about his ambitions to become Japan’s leader, Hayashi at a press conference on Friday said, “As a member of the Kishida administration, I’d like to support the prime minister and focus on fulfilling my responsibilities.”