Kishida Backs Guilt-By-Association System

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
The Liberal Democratic Party’s headquarters in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo.

TOKYO (Jiji Press) — Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Monday showed readiness to introduce a guilt-by-association system to hold lawmakers responsible for political funds control law breaches by their staff.

Kishida indicated his position during intensive deliberations at the Budget Committee of the House of Representatives, the lower chamber of the Diet, the country’s parliament.

The deliberations took up a proposed revision of the political funds control law following a high-profile slush funds scandal involving fundraising parties by factions of Kishida’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

He also mentioned a possible review of the management of policy activity expenses, which parties pay to their lawmakers without the need to disclose how the money was used.

Kishida said he has instructed senior LDP members to question people involved in the scandal, adding that external experts will join such sessions.

“As the LDP’s president, I apologize from the bottom of my heart,” Kishida said of the scandal at the beginning of the deliberations. “We’ll take necessary legislative action, such as a revision of the political funds control law.”

“We want to hold discussions with other parties, including on the guilt-by-association system,” Kishida also said while promising to hold a sincere parliamentary debate on political activity expenses.

Public prosecutors have slapped a summary indictment on a former chief accountant of the LDP faction led until recently by Kishida over the scandal.

Referring to an interim report released last week by the LDP on political reforms, including a ban on fundraising parties hosted by factions, Kishida said, “By implementing [the reforms], we hope to restore trust in the party.”

Over 30 members of the faction once headed by the late Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and seven members of the faction currently led by former LDP Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai have so far corrected their political funds reports, Kishida noted.

The opposition side requested that a list of lawmakers who have received slush funds be submitted before substantial deliberations on the fiscal 2024 budget begin. Kishida replied only that he will work to clarify the whole picture of the scandal.

In response to a request that Nikai and senior Abe faction members be summoned to the Diet as unsworn witnesses, Kishida failed to say whether or not they were responsible for the scandal.

He stated that the LDP needs to consider a system to strengthen its governance over money and posts for members.

Later in the day, Kishida attended intensive deliberations at the Budget Committee of the House of Councillors, the upper chamber.

The LDP will think about the political responsibility it may need to take, Kishida said, adding that the party will disclose the results of its probes into the scandal.

The delivery of four policy speeches by Kishida and three other ministers will be delayed until Tuesday after opposition parties demanded that intensive deliberations be held before the speeches, although it is customary to give such speeches on the day when an ordinary Diet session convenes.