LDP to Punish Its Lawmakers for Violations of Political Funds Control Law; Factions to Be Banned in Current Form

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida delivers a speech at a meeting of the Liberal Democratic Party’s political reform headquarters at the party headquarters on Thursday.

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party on Thursday gave its support to draft amendments to its internal rules, compiled in response to the recent political funding scandal involving factions of the party.

The draft to revise the party’s rules, regulations and governance code was presented to a meeting of the LDP political reform headquarters Thursday. Those in attendance generally agreed on the draft and decided to leave the matter up to Prime Minister and LDP President Fumio Kishida, who chairs the headquarters.

The draft stipulates that member lawmakers will be subject to sanctions such as a recommendation to leave the party if the treasurer of their political group is either arrested or indicted for violating the Political Funds Control Law. The main focus of the draft is to toughen regulations on party factions.

The draft is to be officially approved at the LDP convention on March 17.

“Politicians should correct the idea that politics is something special and take their share of the responsibility. We must promote reforms to achieve that,” Kishida stressed. He heard the opinions of lawmakers for about 100 minutes from the meeting’s beginning to just before its close.

Many times when the Political Funds Control Law has been violated, investigative authorities only build cases against the treasurers, who are often the secretaries of lawmakers. As this provokes criticism that lawmakers are evading their responsibilities, the draft focuses on strengthening sanctions imposed by the party.

Specifically, the LDP will create two new provisions in the party disciplinary rules. First, a party member could be asked to leave the party, suspended from their post or subject to other sanctions if their treasurer is either arrested or indicted. Second, a party member could be expelled from the party or asked to leave it if their treasurer is found guilty. Member lawmakers who are either arrested or indicted will be expelled from the party or asked to leave it. Sanctions against a party member will be dropped if their treasurer is found to have committed their crime with the intent to defraud the member.

When it comes to amendments to the party governance code, the LDP will change the shape of factions. The draft defines a faction as “an organization that brings in Diet members using its financial power and influence on appointments to key positions and tries to use its numerical strength to increase its influence.” It bans the perpetuation or establishment of a group that fits this definition.

The draft allows factions that do not fit this definition to be kept alive as “policy groups,” though it prohibits them from holding political fundraising parties and requires they have external audits performed on their political funds reports. The draft also allows the LDP to ask a faction to dissolve itself or suspend activities for a certain period of time if the faction violates laws or regulations.

To prevent factions from intervening in personnel choices, the LDP will establish a system under which the party will take the lead in appointing diverse personnel and finding the right person for each position. The party is considering using the Personnel Committee, which is currently dormant in its role of coordinating appointments, and creating a database listing the records of lawmakers and the positions they hope to have.