Japan’s LDP Hopes Kishida’s Appearance Before Ethics Panel Restores Trust; Opposition Parties Demand Explanation Over Funds Scandal

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Board members of the House of Representatives Deliberative Council on Political Ethics meet at the Diet building in Tokyo on Wednesday.

The ruling parties hope that Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s appearance before an open session of the Diet’s ethics council over a political funds scandal will restore the public’s trust in politics, observers said.

Kishida, who is also the president of the Liberal Democratic Party, said Wednesday he would appear before the House of Representatives Deliberative Council on Political Ethics over the political funds scandal involving LDP factions.

His decision forced five members of the factions previously led by the late Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and former LDP Secretary General Toshihiro Nikai to also appear before the panel, breaking the deadlock with opposition parties regarding whether the sessions would be open to the media.

While some in the ruling party expressed hope for restoring public trust in politics, opposition party members demanded an explanation regarding the hidden funds allegations.

LDP Policy Research Council Chairman Kisaburo Tokai praised the prime minister’s decision to appear before the council. “If it clears up any distrust in politics, even a little, politics will move forward,” Tokai told reporters at the Diet building on Wednesday. “I hope it will be a step in the right direction.”

Komeito policy chief Yosuke Takagi told reporters that he hopes Kishida will fulfill his accountability.

All five LDP members had initially offered to appear before the council, but the ruling and opposition parties could not come to terms on whether to open the sessions to the media, leading to confusion in the Diet.

The five are former education minister Ryu Shionoya, former Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno, former economy minister Yasutoshi Nishimura, former chairman of the LDP’s Diet Affairs Committee Tsuyoshi Takagi and former Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Ryota Takeda. Takeda is a Nikai faction member, while others are Abe faction members.

“The appearance of the prime minister carries a heavy weight,” Shionoya told reporters on Wednesday, expressing his intention to appear before the council with the media present.

Jun Azumi, the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan’s Diet affairs chief, said Wednesday, “I was surprised for a moment, but I think it means he leapt into the breach to break the deadlock.”

Yuichiro Tamaki, leader of the Democratic Party for the People, stressed at a party meeting on the same day that he would continue to demand Kishida fulfill his accountability.

“It is important to explain why these hidden funds were created, in a way that the public can understand,” Tamaki said. “Just because the prime minister appears before the Deliberative Council on Political Ethics does not mean the problem will be solved.”