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News in Pictures / Political Fundraising Scandal Batters Kishida Administration

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida speaks to reporters at the Prime Minister’s Office in Tokyo on Friday.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s administration has been deeply shaken by the hidden funds scandal related to political fundraising parties for Liberal Democratic Party factions.

On Dec. 19, the special investigation squad of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office searched the offices of the Abe faction, known as Seiwa Seisaku Kenkyukai, and the Nikai faction, known as Shisuikai. Both are located in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo.

Yomiuri Shimbun photos
Top: Reporters gather in front of the building housing the office of the Liberal Democratic Party’s Abe faction in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, on Dec. 19. Down: Members of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office enter the building housing the office of the Liberal Democratic Party’s Abe faction in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, on Dec. 19.
Yomiuri Shimbun photos
Top: Reporters gather in front of the building housing the office of the LDP’s Nikai faction while members of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office search the office in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, on Dec. 19. Down: Members of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office enter the building housing the office of the LDP’s Nikai faction in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, on Dec. 19.

The two factions are suspected of violating the Political Funds Control Law by giving their members kickbacks from political fundraising parties and failing to record this money in their political funds reports.

For the Abe faction, the kickbacks are estimated to have totaled ¥500 million in the five-year period from 2018 to 2022, while the Nikai faction is suspected of underreporting ¥100 million or more during the same period.

Even before prosecutors searched the faction offices, the approval rating for the Kishida Cabinet stood at a low of 25% in a Yomiuri Shimbun public opinion survey conducted nationwide in mid-December. This was despite replacing four ministers, including Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno and Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura, from the Abe faction in connection with the scandal.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Then Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno enters a room to give a press conference after submitting his resignation letter on Dec. 14 at the Prime Minister’s Office in Tokyo.

The focus of the investigation will be whether the factions’ lawmakers can be held criminally responsible for the off-the-books hidden funds.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
From left, LDP Secretary General Toshimitsu Motegi, President Fumio Kishida and Vice President Taro Aso attend an LDP board meeting on Dec. 19 in Tokyo.