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Kishida backs guilt-by-association for fund law breaches

He said he plans to realize a revision of the political funds control law during the current ordinary session of the Diet. (AFP)
He said he plans to realize a revision of the political funds control law during the current ordinary session of the Diet. (AFP)
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29 Feb 2024 10:02:16 GMT9
29 Feb 2024 10:02:16 GMT9

TOKYO: Japanese Prime Minister KISHIDA Fumio on Thursday expressed his willingness to adopt a guilt-by-association system holding politicians responsible for their accountants’ political funds control law violations.

In a hearing at the Deliberative Council on Political Ethics of the House of Representatives, the lower chamber of Japan’s parliament, Kishida also apologized over a money scandal involving factions of his ruling Liberal Democratic Party. He promised not to host fundraising parties during his tenure as prime minister.

“As party president, I offer my heartfelt apology for causing great public suspicion and distrust in politics,” he said at the start of the hearing, pledging to “promote reforms to establish compliance.”

But Kishida’s explanations about details, including how the widespread practice of keeping some revenues unrecorded in political funds reports came to be established, were limited to what had been disclosed in the LDP’s hearing survey report released Feb. 15.

He said he plans to realize a revision of the political funds control law during the current ordinary session of the Diet.

“It’s important to hold politicians themselves responsible for cases with a certain degree of maliciousness,” he said of the guilt-by-association system. “The party will discuss details of the system design.”

Kishida also proposed such measures as the introduction of outside auditors for political organizations and the digitalization of political funds reports.

He said that fundraising parties he held after becoming prime minister were “not something that invites public suspicion,” but said that he will no longer hold them during his tenure.

It is important for LDP lawmakers who turned unreported money into slush funds to fulfill their accountability, Kishida said, adding that the party “will make efforts to confirm the facts while taking measures to prevent recurrences, as well as judge political responsibility as a party.”

“(The party) must improve itself,” he said. “The LDP must make a drastic fresh start.”

“I’m determined to take the lead in promoting party and political reforms,” he added.

It was the 10th time that a political ethics panel hearing was held in the Lower House since the two Diet chambers established their political ethics panels in 1985, and the first with a Lower House member giving an explanation since 2006.

It was the first panel hearing with a sitting prime minister in attendance.

Former internal affairs minister TAKEDA Ryota, who was top secretary at the faction headed by former LDP Secretary-General NIKAI Toshihiro, showed up at the panel later Thursday and apologized for the scandal. But he said he had “no intention at all” to create slush funds.

Nikai was “not involved in the faction’s administrative or accounting work,” Takeda said, denying Nikai’s role in the scandal.

Referring to sales quotas set for Nikai faction members for fundraising party tickets, Takeda said he and Nikai “have never made any decisions” on that.

Takeda also denied his involvement in the accounting, saying that he knew nothing about the system of kicking some fundraising party revenues back to politicians and that the matter had been left up to a former accountant.

On Friday, the panel’s hearings will be held for former industry minister NISHIMURA Yasutoshi, former Chief Cabinet Secretary MATSUNO Hirokazu, former education minister SHIONOYA Ryu and former LDP Diet affairs leader TAKAGI Tsuyoshi. Shionoya previously headed the decision-making body of the LDP faction once led by the late former Prime Minister ABE Shinzo. Matsuno, Nishimura and Takagi all previously served as top secretary at the Abe faction.

JIJI Press

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