Money, Personnel Matters to be Separated From LDP Factions; Stricter Punishments Also Sought for Legal Violations

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
The Liberal Democratic Party’s headquarters building in Tokyo

The Liberal Democratic Party’s political reform headquarters has largely approved a draft interim plan on political reform that would separate matters of money and personnel appointments from LDP factions.

A meeting was held Tuesday of the political reform headquarters, at which it was also agreed to ask Prime Minister Fumio Kishida to decide on a future course of action.

The party will allow factions to remain as “policy groups,” after taking away their handling of money and personnel appointments. The interim plan also calls for revising the Political Funds Control Law to improve transparency regarding political funds and introduce stricter punishments for those who violate the law.

“We’ll completely transform ourselves from a party dependent on factions,” Kishida told reporters after the meeting at LDP headquarters. “To that end, we’ll separate [the factions] from the functions of money and personnel appointments and disband that kind of faction.”

“I’ll be at the forefront of putting this principle into practice,” the prime minister said. The LDP plans to decide on the interim plan on Thursday.

The draft plan states that factions should “be transformed into true policy groups.” Political fundraising parties, the main revenue source for factions, will be completely banned because they have turned into a hotbed of wrongdoing, it says.

The LDP will also end the “ice” and “mochi” payments that factions provide to their members in summer and winter to support their political activities. Also, the party’s governance code will stipulate that factions are banned from recommending their members for cabinet and party executive posts or exerting influence to that end, the draft plan says.

Kishida will allow the factions led by party Vice President Taro Aso and Secretary General Toshimitsu Motegi to continue on as policy groups if they follow these rules, according to sources.

If factions are found to have violated laws and regulations, the party will examine the matter and demand they disband or suspend their activities for a certain amount of time. Factions will also be required to have their political funds reports inspected by external auditors.

The LDP’s political reform headquarters was set up in response to a scandal over alleged violations of the Political Funds Control Law involving LDP factions.

The draft plan states that the party will “come to a conclusion on the clear accountability and political responsibility that those concerned need to take.” It reportedly suggests applying penalties to executives of the faction once led by former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

The party will expedite efforts to examine this point.

As to revisions to the Political Funds Control Law, the draft plan does not go into detail, as negotiations are expected to take place between ruling and opposition parties in the future.

Currently, the law requires factions to report the names of organizations or individuals that spend more than ¥200,000 on tickets for one fundraising event. The LDP is considering lowering the amount that requires a report.

It also plans to strengthen penalties against politicians when chief accountants at their offices are arrested or indicted.

The party aims to make the flow of political funds transparent. The revenues of organizations linked to Diet members will in principle be sent by bank transfer, and their political fund reports will be submitted online.