The Japanese Prime Minister, Fumio Kishida, He replaced four of his ministers on Thursday in an effort to contain the damage caused by a growing slush fund scandal that has shaken his ruling party and his grip on power within it.
The reshuffle is Kidhida’s third in his cabinet, whose support ratings have continued to fall to new lows. The scandal involves the largest and most influential faction of the Liberal Democrat Party. It used to be led by the late former prime minister Shinzo Abe, who was killed in 2022.
Kishida replaced four ministers from Abe’s faction: the chief cabinet secretary, Hirokazu Matsuno; the Minister of Economy and Industry, Yasutoshi Nishimura; the Minister of Agriculture, Ichiro Miyashita; and the Minister of the Interior, Junji Suzuki. All have emerged as alleged recipients of alleged bribes from unreported fundraising profits.
A purge of members from that wing of the party is key to Kishida’s balancing act within the party, but could trigger a power struggle. Kishida does not have to call parliamentary elections until 2025, but the Liberal Democratic Party has a leadership vote in September.
Matsuno said at his final news conference on Thursday that he had tendered his resignation to Kishida in response to the fundraising allegations, which he said “have shaken public confidence in politics.” He said he also submitted resignations on behalf of three other ministers and an aide to Kishida.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Yoshimasa Hayashi, who belongs to Kishida’s faction of the party, was appointed to replace Matsuno as the prime minister’s right-hand man in the cabinet. To the former Minister of Justice, Ken Saitohe was assigned the position of Minister of Economy.
Seven deputy ministers and advisors belonging to the Abe group also submitted their resignations, while three legislators resigned to his main positions in the PLD. Kishida will reportedly decide on replacing him in the coming days rather than removing them completely to cushion the impact.
In the fundraising scandal, dozens of LDP lawmakers, mostly members of Abe’s faction, were suspected of systematically failing to declare 500 million yen ($3.53 million) in funds, in possible violation of election and campaign laws, according to media reports. The money is alleged to have gone into unsupervised slush funds.
Collecting profits from partisan events and paying bribes to legislators is not illegal if properly recorded under the political funds law. Violations can result in prison sentences of up to five years in prison and fines of up to 1 million yen ($7,065), but experts say prosecution is difficult as it requires proof of a specific instruction to a non-counter. report a money transfer.
(With information from AP)