Former Lower House Speaker Yohei Kono Opposed Firms’ Political Donations

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Yohei Kono, former speaker of the House of Representatives

TOKYO (Jiji Press) — Yohei Kono, former speaker of the House of Representatives, called for abolishing political donations by companies, according to records of interviews conducted between 2019 and 2022 that were disclosed by the lower chamber of parliament Wednesday.

Kono, then president of the then opposition Liberal Democratic Party, and then Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa in January 1994 agreed on political reform featuring a shift to the combination of single-seat constituencies and proportional representation and the abolishment of corporate political donations.

In the interviews conducted by the Lower House on 31 occasions between October 2019 and June 2022, Kono said the introduction of single-seat districts and the abolishment of corporate political donations were “the two wheels of the car that supports political reform.”

Referring to the introduction of proportional representation, however, Kono said, “I believe it was a failure.”

“Proportional representation serves to save those defeated in single-seat constituencies and hardly helps listen to minority opinions,” he said, according to the records.

Kono expressed frustration at rules that still allow corporate donations to political party chapters. “Corporate donations must be abolished at a time when public subsidies are provided to political parties,” he said.

He said that a statement he issued as chief cabinet secretary in 1993 to admit the now-defunct Imperial Japanese Army’s involvement in the issue of “comfort women,” or women who provided sex to Japanese troops before and during World War II and extend Japan’s “sincere apologies and remorse” was an official document.

The statement was not adopted by the cabinet, but it was unveiled at a chief cabinet secretary’s press conference and reflected the cabinet’s intention, Kono said.