Kishida Apologizes over Fund Scandal at Diet Ethics Council, Vows Not to Hold Fundraising Parties During Time in Office

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida apologizes at the House of Representatives Deliberative Council on Political Ethics in Tokyo on Thursday.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida appeared Thursday before the House of Representatives Deliberative Council on Political Ethics to discuss issues related to alleged violations of the Political Funds Control Law by Liberal Democratic Party factions.

This was the first time for a sitting prime minister to appear before the ethics council. Kishida explained measures to prevent a recurrence of the scandal, including strengthening the Political Funds Control Law, as well as the Kishida faction’s failure to include political fund income on expenditure reports.

The political ethics council convened at 2:00 p.m. on the day. Ryota Takeda, a former internal affairs minister who also served as secretary general of the Nikai faction, appeared after the prime minister. Each session took a total of 80 minutes, including 15 minutes for the defense and 65 minutes for questions from committee members.

The sessions were fully public, with members of the press present. Television and internet broadcasts were also allowed.

At the beginning of the session, Kishida said, “As the president of the Liberal Democratic Party, I would like to sincerely apologize for arousing great suspicion among the public, and causing distrust regarding LDP factions’ political funding.”

The prime minister expressed a desire to “verify the facts and make decisions as a party regarding the treatment of those involved.” Kishida added, “Without the trust of the people in politics, there can be no stability in politics, and without stability in politics, the promotion of policies is not possible.”

In response to the scandal, the LDP is aiming to revise the Political Funds Control Law. It has been discussing measures such as lowering standards for disclosing the names of people who purchase tickets to fundraising events and introducing a system in which party members would be held jointly responsible for violations.

“I believe it is important to enact legal reforms that hold not only the accounting managers accountable, but also the politicians themselves in certain grave cases,” Kishida said during the questioning. He indicated his intention to aim for an amendment to the Political Funds Control Law during the current session of the Diet.

In the Kishida faction, for which the prime minister served as chairman, about ¥30 million of political party income from 2018 to 2020 was not recorded in income and expenditure reports. The faction’s former accounting manager has been indicted.

Regarding his own political fundraising parties, Kishida explicitly stated, “There will be no such events during my tenure as prime minister.”

The ethics council was to reconvene on Friday, March 1. Four Abe faction executives were scheduled to appear on Friday: Yasutoshi Nishimura, a former economy, trade and industry minister; Hirokazu Matsuno, a former chief cabinet secretary; Ryu Shionoya, a former education minister; and Tsuyoshi Takagi, a former chairperson of the LDP Diet Affairs Committee.