LDP submits own bill without Komeito to reform political funds rules

Tokyo, 18 May, /AJMEDIA/

Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party submitted its own bill to parliament on Friday to amend the political funds control law, after its junior coalition partner rejected its proposals to strengthen money-related rules in politics.

The Komeito party and the opposition camp have expressed doubt about whether the bill would do enough to enhance the transparency of political funds, and it is uncertain whether the bill will clear the House of Councillors, in which the LDP does not hold a majority.

The disagreement apparently reflects Komeito’s frustration at what it perceives as the LDP’s lack of seriousness in pursuing political reform despite a recent fundraising scandal that has significantly undermined public trust in politics. One of Komeito’s slogans is “clean politics.”

At a parliament session on Friday, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who heads the LDP, said its political funds reform proposals would create “effective measures to prevent a recurrence of similar problems,” adding the ruling parties are facing “the same direction.”

Later in the day, Kishida also told reporters that the LDP will make every effort to secure the passage of the bill as soon as possible, while “working together with Komeito” and “sincerely” hearing opinions of opposition parties.

However, Keiichi Ishii, Komeito’s secretary general, said at a press conference that it would be “desirable” but “difficult” to jointly submit a bill. The party does not plan to submit its own bill.

The conservative LDP has come under scrutiny after some of its factions neglected to report portions of their incomes from fundraising parties and created slush funds for years.

With his Cabinet’s approval ratings at their lowest levels since it was launched in October 2021, Kishida has pledged to revise the political funds control law by the end of the current parliamentary session through June.

Last week, the LDP and Komeito broadly agreed to proposals on how to amend the political funds control law, such as lowering the threshold for disclosing the names of purchasers of party tickets, but failed to decide on the actual level.

The current legislation, which has been criticized for containing loopholes that enable politicians to maintain slush funds, does not require the names of purchasers of up to 200,000 yen ($1,280) of fundraising party tickets to be recorded in political funds reports.

Under its own bill, the LDP proposes lowering the threshold to 100,000 yen, while Komeito, backed by Japan’s largest lay Buddhist organization, Soka Gakkai, insists on 50,000 yen. Komeito has been part of the coalition government since 2012.

The ruling bloc, meanwhile, confirmed that senior lawmakers should report how they use the so-called policy activity funds provided by their parties. The funds are not subject to disclosure, even when expenditures reach hundreds of millions of yen.

LDP heavyweights have been accused of accepting significant amounts of policy activity funds. In 2022, the party distributed more than 1.4 billion yen in such funds, with around 971 million yen allocated to Secretary General Toshimitsu Motegi.

Regarding how to disclose the usage of the policy activity funds, the LDP’s bill calls for lawmakers to list nine categories of expenditure, including “election-related expenses,” without specifying how the funds were used.

Komeito is demanding the disclosure of all payments with receipts attached, while Kenta Izumi, chief of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, has lambasted the LDP’s proposals for lacking “transparency.”

Parliamentary deliberations on the LDP’s bill are set to start next week, with some opposition parties aiming to submit either their own or joint bills to the Diet.


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