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Business News/ News / World/  Japan PM to Punish Lawmakers Caught in Political Funding Scandal
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Japan PM to Punish Lawmakers Caught in Political Funding Scandal

Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is set to punish ruling party lawmakers caught concealing political funds, as he seeks to move on from a scandal that sent his voter support to record lows.

Japan PM to Punish Lawmakers Caught in Political Funding ScandalPremium
Japan PM to Punish Lawmakers Caught in Political Funding Scandal

(Bloomberg) -- Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is set to punish ruling party lawmakers caught concealing political funds, as he seeks to move on from a scandal that sent his voter support to record lows.

Two senior politicians will be told to resign from the Liberal Democratic Party, while dozens of others will face lesser penalties such as temporary suspension of their membership, public broadcaster NHK reported on Thursday.  

Internal disagreement over the severity of treatment for certain members means some of the details are yet to be decided, NHK said. The party disciplinary committee is set to meet from 4 p.m, according to sources close to the matter.

It’s unclear how far the steps will assuage public anger over the slush fund scandal, which has wracked the LDP for months. While undermining rivals, the penalties may also provoke more infighting, complicating Kishida’s path to re-election as party president in September. 

Read: Japan PM Says Won’t Call Election Before Slush Fund Penalties

“I don’t think this will immediately sweep away distrust of politics, nor do I think it will help his support rate," said Masaki Taniguchi, a professor at the University of Tokyo who served as an adviser on an LDP panel on political reform. 

Support for Kishida’s cabinet slipped slightly to 22.8% in a survey by broadcaster JNN carried out March 30-31, touching a fresh low since he took office for the sixth consecutive month. A poll by the Yomiuri newspaper a week earlier found more than 80% of respondents were dissatisfied with the explanations lawmakers had given over their failure to declare some of their income.

Despite the scandal and public discontent over real incomes failing to keep pace with inflation, opposition parties have failed to take advantage of Kishida’s woes, and their support lags mostly in single figures. No general election need be held for more than a year. 

Former Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Hiroshige Seko is one of the two lawmakers to be instructed to resign from the LDP, NHK and other media said. Yasutoshi Nishimura, who also previously served as METI minister, is among those set to be suspended, NHK said. 

The lawmakers concerned were last year found to have been concealing income generated at parties organized by the LDP’s once-powerful internal factions. Most of the major factions disbanded over the scandal, a move that failed to mollify voters. 

Read: Japan’s Household Spending Drop Complicates BOJ Rates Messaging

Many of those set to be subjected to the harshest penalties held senior positions in a faction previously led by the late Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, which was the party’s largest. Undermining their position could allow Kishida to move away from Abe’s free-spending fiscal policies and unprecedented monetary easing, Taniguchi said, while adding he didn’t expect big changes immediately. 

“The problem is how to prevent this from happening again," Yosuke Takagi, policy chief of junior coalition party Komeito, said in an interview with Bloomberg Wednesday. “If we don’t decide policies on this in the current session of parliament, we won’t be able to win back trust."

--With assistance from Takashi Hirokawa.

More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com

©2024 Bloomberg L.P.

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Published: 04 Apr 2024, 06:48 AM IST
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