Japanese Prime Minister appears during parliamentary hearing on fund scandal | World News – Business standard

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida (Photo: Bloomberg)

Japan’s beleaguered prime minister was due to appear before a political ethics committee in parliament on Thursday in an effort to demonstrate his leadership.

Fumio Kishida has battled plummeting support figures since his ruling party’s corruption scandal rocked the government. The scandal, considered the biggest in decades, centers on political funds raised through party event tickets purchased by individuals, companies and organizations. It led to 10 lawmakers and their aides being charged in January.

Although Kishida himself is not at the center of the scandal and was not even invited to the hearing, the surprise announcement of his personal appearance on Wednesday broke a deadlock between opposition lawmakers and his ruling party, when the five attendees involved refused to go public to go. organize a hearing and further tarnish the party’s image.

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s opposition to a fully open session fueled public criticism that Kishida’s party is taking corruption lightly and trying to hide something.

Kishida’s action could ease criticism that he was too slow and lax in addressing public distrust and taking anti-corruption measures.

As head of the LDP, I will appear and fulfill my responsibility to explain to the media, Kishida told reporters on Wednesday. He said the impasse at the hearing was extremely disappointing. I had a strong sense of crisis, that it would worsen the public’s distrust in politics.”

Kishida does not have to call a parliamentary election until 2025, but his party has set a leadership vote for September.

The ethics committee is tasked with determining whether a lawmaker has violated political ethics standards and should be held accountable, but critics say it is largely a show and no serious investigative role is expected.

The hearings can be held in private, but all but nine previous hearings have been public.

More than 80 LDP lawmakers, most of whom belonged to a faction previously led by assassinated former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, acknowledged that they had not reported funds that may have violated the Political Funds Control Act. In the systematic long-term practice, the money would have ended up in uncontrolled slush funds.

Kishida removed a number of ministers from his cabinet and others from leadership positions in the party, while some resigned from their positions, although support for his government fell to around 20 percent.

The prime minister has announced the dissolution of his group after the scandal and has set up an internal task force to implement reforms. But half of its members are involved in the scandal, raising questions about how much it can achieve.

The LDP has ruled post-war Japan almost without interruption, experiencing repeated corruption scandals followed by promises of cleaner politics.

Kishida and former Interior Minister Ryota Takeda, who belongs to another powerful faction, were expected to appear at the hearing on Thursday. Four members of the Abe faction, including former Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno and former Trade Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura, were expected to appear on Friday.

(Only the headline and image of this report may have been reworked by Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is automatically generated from a syndicated feed.)

First print: February 29, 2024 | 11:33 am IST