LDP to Suspend Shimomura, Nishimura and Takagi from Party Membership as Part of Disciplinary Action over Political Funds Scandal

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida speaks at the Prime Minister’s Office on Monday.

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party intends to suspend party membership of three former Abe faction senior members―Hakubun Shimomura, Yasutoshi Nishimura and Tsuyoshi Takagi―in connection with the faction’s alleged violation of the Political Funds Control Law, according to party executive members.

Another former faction executive, Koichi Hagiuda, the former chairperson of the party Policy Research Council, is to be suspended from party positions.

Suspension from party membership is the third most severe of eight punishments of the party’s code of discipline. The penalty is imposed for a period of no less than three months and no more than two years. In addition to losing the party’s official endorsement during elections, they also lose their eligibility to run for and vote in the party presidential election.

The LDP leadership determined that Shimomura and Nishimura have serious political responsibilities as they attended a meeting of faction executives in April 2022, in which the late former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who had once led the faction, instructed them to stop the practice of kickbacks from the sale of fundraising party tickets. Another meeting was held in August that same year in which they discussed how to handle the situation in the wake of Abe’s death the month prior.

The leadership took seriously the fact that Takagi, former party Diet Affairs Committee chairperson, had most recently served as the faction’s secretary general in charge of its practical affairs.

On Tuesday, the LDP’s Party Ethics Committee asked the 39 party lawmakers subject to punishment to submit written explanations if they wish to do so. The committee plans to make a final decision on their punishments on Thursday.

The LDP leadership considers most seriously the responsibility of Ryu Shionoya, former education, culture, sports, science and technology minister, and Hiroshige Seko, former secretary general for the LDP in the House of Councillors, both of whom participated in the 2022 meetings.

Shionoya previously served as chairman of the Abe faction and Seko as chairman for the Abe faction upper house lawmakers. The party leadership intends to impose on them recommendations to leave the party, the second most severe punishment.

Since Shimomura, former education minister, and Nishimura, former economy, trade and industry minister, left the posts to handle practical affairs of the faction after the August 2022 meeting, the party leadership judged that they should be suspended from party membership, a step lighter than a recommendation to leave the party.

The leadership plans to set the suspension period for Shimomura and Nishimura at one year, and for Takagi at six months.

Former Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno, who formerly served as secretary general of the Abe faction, and former Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Ryota Takeda, who was former secretary general of the Nikai faction, is also proposed to be penalized with either suspension from party membership or suspension from party positions.

The 39 lawmakers subject to penalties include former executives of the Abe and Nikai factions, as well as lawmakers of the two factions who failed to report ¥5 million or more in revenues from kickbacks in their political funds reports for a period of five years from 2018 to 2022.

Lawmakers who failed to report ¥10 million or more will be suspended from party positions, while those who failed to report less than ¥10 million will be given an reprimand.

The punishments will likely be divided into four levels, including a recommendation to leave the party and suspension from party membership. Those who failed to report the amount of less than ¥5 million will be given only a warning by the party secretary general.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who is also the LDP president, told reporters at the Prime Minister’s Office on Tuesday, “We will make a strict judgment after the procedures are completed.”