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Thursday, June 13, 2024

Japan PM Kishida replaces 2 top executives in scandal-hit ruling LDP

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Tokyo: Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, in an apparent move to restore public trust amid the growing political slush fund scandal within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) factions, replaced two LDP executives on Friday.

Former Education Minister Kisaburo Tokai was tapped as policy chief to succeed Koichi Hagiuda, while former Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada replaced the party’s Diet Affairs Committee Chair Tsuyoshi Takagi.

Local media reports earlier revealed that as Kishida intended to appoint veteran lawmakers not involved in the scandal, neither Tokai nor Hamada belonging to any party faction.

Five major factions were suspected of paying kickbacks to member lawmakers who sold fundraising party tickets above their quota, without recording the amount as revenue in its political fund reports.

The Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office’s special investigation squad searched the offices of two ruling Liberal Democratic Party factions, including the largest one previously led by late Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, which was suspected of violating the Political Funds Control Law by failing to report kickbacks allegedly given to the offices of lawmakers.

The Abe faction, namely Seiwaken, or the Seiwa policy study group, was suspected to have pooled secret funds amounting to around 500 million yen (about 3.51 million U.S. dollars) over the past five years.

In the wake of the unfolding scandal, over 10 senior officials or heavyweight lawmakers have stepped down from their positions in the cabinet of Kishida or the LDP.

The scandal has pushed the support rate for Kishida’s Cabinet to a fresh low of 22.3 percent in the latest survey by Kyodo News, signaling that the administration may be in the “danger zone.”

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