Japan’s ruling party engulfed by political fundraising scandal | Japan #Japans #ruling #party #engulfed #political #fundraising #scandal #Japan

Japan’s prime minister, Fumio Kishida, is battling to contain the fallout from a political fundraising scandal that forced the resignations of four of his ministers, amid reports that prosecutors were poised to raid the offices of dozens of ruling party MPs.

The chief cabinet secretary, Hirokazu Matsuno, confirmed that he was stepping down, while the economy and industry minister, Yasutoshi Nishimura, the internal affairs minister, Junji Suzuki, and the agriculture minister, Ichiro Miyashita, have also resigned.

The targeted ministers are members of the 100-strong Abe faction – once led by the assassinated former prime minister Shinzo Abe – the largest grouping of MPs in Kishida’s ruling Liberal Democratic party (LDP).

Prosecutors are investigating allegations that members of Abe’s faction failed to report about ¥500m (£2.7m) raised via fundraising parties over the past five years.

Investigators are looking into whether Kishida’s faction is also involved, according to media reports. The group is suspected of failing to declare more than ¥20m in the three years to 2020, the Asahi Shimbun newspaper reported.

Japanese political parties routinely organise events attended by supporters to raise funds, with the profits ploughed back into campaigning.

Holding gatherings to raise funds is legal. Members of the Abe faction reportedly exceeded their ticket sales quotas and pocketed the difference. That, too, is not a crime. But their alleged failure to record the sums in official statements would be a violation of political funding laws.

“If you are confident of selling tickets, and you sell more than you are obliged to sell, that will all become your income … it’s easy,” a senior official who used to work in the office of an LDP lawmaker told the broadcaster ANN, his face concealed and voice disguised.

On Thursday, Matsuno, who is also chief government spokesman told reporters Michiko Ueno, a special advisor to Kishida, is also leaving office as well as five deputy ministers

Nishimura said anger over his alleged involvement in the funding scandal were damaging public trust in the government. “As an investigation is ongoing, I thought I should set things right,” he told reporters.

Kishida said this week he planned to deal with the allegations “head-on” as his administration sank into disarray. “I will make efforts like a ball of fire and lead the LDP to restore the public’s trust,” he said.

The allegations come at the worst possible time for Kishida, who last week resigned as head of his own LDP faction in an attempt to appear more neutral on the growing financial scandal.

His approval ratings are at their lowest – 23% – since he took office in late 2021, amid voter anger over a deepening cost-of-living crisis and plans to raise taxes to fund record defence spending.

Support for the LDP, which has governed almost uninterrupted for decades, has also fallen below 30% for the first time since 2012, when it returned to power after a brief period in opposition, an NHK survey on Tuesday showed.

Kishida said this week he planned to take “appropriate measures” to rebuild public trust in his government, but some analysts did not believe a cabinet clearout would draw a line under the scandal, given the questions it raised about his leadership.

“At this stage, the most Kishida can hope for is to arrest the current decline in his personal support,” said Corey Wallace, an associate professor of political science and international relations at Kanagawa University. “Increasing it, however, will require more than cosmetic changes to personnel.”

The next lower house election is not due until October 2025 at the latest but the scandal has fuelled speculation that Kishida could face a challenge for the party’s leadership when it elects a new president next September – assuming he survives until then.

#Japans #ruling #party #engulfed #political #fundraising #scandal #Japan

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