Punishment for LDP Members Over Scandal Faces Complications; Former Abe Faction Executives May Not Go Quietly

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida

Disciplinary actions being considered by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida against former executives of the Liberal Democratic Party’s Abe faction over a political funds scandal are complicated by several issues.

For example, the former executives may not willingly accept the disciplinary actions. Also, it is unlikely that the whole truth of the scandal will be unraveled. In addition, some party members are discontented by the absence of any disciplinary action against Kishida himself.

“I’m not sure if we would accept them,” a source said they were told by a former executive of the Abe faction regarding disciplinary actions likely to be presented at the party’s Ethics Committee on Thursday.

Ryu Shionoya, a former education minister, and Hiroshige Seko, a former secretary general for the LDP in the House of Councillors, have expressed strong disagreement as they likely will face a recommendation to leave the party, the most severe of the punishments being considered against the former executives involved.

The two claim that even though they were in party executive positions that could have enabled them to stop the institutional wrongdoing of failing to report revenues from kickbacks from the sale of tickets to the faction’s fundraising parties, their responsibility became clear only in hindsight. They insist they did not know about the wrongdoing while it was being practiced.

Shionoya and Seko are likely to disclaim responsibility in their written statements to be submitted to the Ethics Committee. Even after the party decides on disciplinary actions against them, it will still be possible for them to request reexaminations if they are discontented with the punishments to be imposed. If the party’s General Council considers their claims to have relevant grounds, the disciplinary action against them would be reexamined.

If the two end up not accepting the punitive measure of recommendation to leave the party, they would be subject to expulsion from the party, the most severe of the eight levels in the party’s arsenal of penalties. This would have a significant impact on their activities as lawmakers.

A former Cabinet member expressed concern over the situation, saying, “If those subject to punitive measures continue their all-out efforts to resist, the leadership of the prime minister, who is responsible for those measures, may be weakened.”

Even if the punishments are imposed, core questions regarding the wrongdoing, such as when it started and why it was not stopped, “will likely remain mysteries,” an LDP executive said.

Kishida, who is also the party president, personally questioned four former executives of the Abe faction, including Shionoya. A senior LDP official said, “The four just insisted they did not know about the actual situation.”

As for the prime minister not being subject to any punishment, a former executive of the Abe faction said, “If executives of the faction are blamed, what about the responsibilities of [the person at] the top of the party?”

In the Abe and Nikai factions, members’ revenues from kickbacks from their factions were not reported. Meanwhile, in the Kishida faction, kickbacks to lawmakers have not been found although there were cases of failing to report revenues from the factions’ fundraising parties. Kishida is expected to argue that the wrongdoing of his faction is not as serious. But it remains unknown if the public would find such a claim convincing.