Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida may be looking to remove at least four senior Cabinet members from his predecessor’s faction in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party amid a deepening political funds scandal.
Allegations have surfaced against Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno, Economy, Trade, and Industry Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura, Koichi Hagiuda (Chairman of the Liberal Democratic Party’s Policy Research Council), and Tsuyoshi Takagi (Chairman of the LDP’s Diet Affairs Committee). The accusations involve the acceptance of millions in off-book funds originating from fundraisers and other political events.
Some sources state that Prime Minister Kishida may consider replacing Hiroshige Seko, the secretary-general of the LDP’s Upper House caucus, who has also been linked to the scandal.
The Shinzo Abe Faction of the Liberal Democratic Party:
Matsuno, Nishimura, Hagiuda, Takagi, and Seko, who currently constitute the 15-member executive board responsible for overseeing the faction, are commonly referred to as the “goninshu” (five upcoming leaders).
The Kishida administration has relied heavily on the Abe faction, the largest internal LDP faction, which bears the name of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Shinzo Abe led this faction until his unfortunate assassination in 2022. They’re now accused of hiding potentially hundreds of millions of yen in unreported funds, prompting an investigation from the Tokyo Public Prosecutors Office.
This shakeup will undoubtedly throw the Kishida administration into even further chaos as the nation’s leadership is embroiled in recurrent scandals and plagued by low approval ratings.
Prime Minister Kishida is scheduled to hold a press conference on December 13 at the conclusion of the extraordinary Diet session, where he will outline the future of his administration and address this latest scandal.
Addressing the Rumors:
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida reassured the nation that he would take the necessary steps to restore the people’s faith in his government amid the repeated scandals. However, he declined to comment on the report that he would be replacing the four ministers in his cabinet.
Speaking to reporters on the morning of December 11, Prime Minister Kishida said he is aware of the gravity of the situation and alluded to awaiting the investigative results. “We’ll consider appropriate measures at the right time to restore public trust and prevent delays in national politics,” he said.
Despite the reports, Minister Nishimura told reporters that he intends to continue his duties until removed, saying, “I have not been told anything at this point. I’d like to continue to fulfill the responsibilities.”
“I am carefully scrutinizing my own political fund balance reports once again. I would like to give a full explanation at the appropriate time,” Nishimura said during a visit to the city of Naka in Ibaraki Prefecture.
The Funds Investigation:
As of December 7, a Yomiuri newspaper report revealed the start of an investigation into the funds raised by the Abe faction, focusing on addressing the accusations and discrepancies.
The Yomiuri report made note that both Trade Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura and Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno had been responsible for overseeing the faction’s financial records over the past five years.
The Secretary-general of the Liberal Democratic Party, Toshimitsu Motegi, stated this week that leaders of the party’s factions have been instructed to review their funding reports and correct any inaccuracies so as to avoid a party-wide scandal.
According to Japan’s political funds control law, the failure to report funds and the dissemination of false statements could lead to penalties, including imprisonment for up to five years or fines of up to ¥1 million.
It should be noted that these reports are preliminary and have not yet yielded results from an official investigation as of the publication of this article.