Upper House Ethics Council Meeting on Political Fund Scandals Arranged for March 14 or 15; 32 Lawmakers May be Questioned

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
The Diet building is seen in February in Tokyo.

The House of Councillors’ Deliberative Council on Political Ethics voted unanimously Friday to hold a session to have 32 upper house members account for their involvement in the Liberal Democratic Party factions’ alleged violation of the Political Funds Control Law.

The council will confirm their attendance and schedule the session on March 14 or 15, or both. The council was to send a letter to confirm their attendance, asking it to be returned by 11 a.m. Tuesday.

The 32 lawmakers include 31 upper house members from the LDP’s Abe and Nikai factions, and Yasutada Ono, who was indicted without arrest. Ono has since left the LDP.

The Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan is among the other opposition parties that demanded calling for open explanations and questioning of all 32 members.

Since the lawmakers’ wishes on whether to attend will be respected, the council will consider whether they wish to make it public if they do attend. At this point, former LDP upper house Secretary General Hiroshige Seko and lawmaker Shoji Nishida have expressed their intention to attend the session in public. Both are members of the Abe faction.

The Abe faction is alleged to have exempted its members who were up for election to the upper house from their quota for selling tickets to political fundraising parties and paid them the full amount of the tickets sold as kickbacks. Opposition parties have alleged that the kickbacks were used for campaign funds. Whether the explanations clarify the allegations will be the focus of the upcoming deliberations.

There is a discrepancy among former Abe faction executives over how the practice of paying kickbacks continued against the wishes of the faction’s then chairman Shinzo Abe in 2022. What Seko, who served as a top official in Abe’s faction, says is likely to be key.

“This [unanimous approval] is a serious decision. The LDP will examine the case with deep reflection,” the ethics council’s director Masahisa Sato of the LDP said after Friday’s vote.