Japan opposition lawmakers bring no-confidence motion accusing gov't of halting debate over scandal


TOKYO (AP) — Outraged Japanese opposition lawmakers submitted a no-confidence motion on Friday, accusing the governing party of trying to push through a budget bill without adequate debate because of disruptions caused by a scandal over its fund-raising practices.

Opposition politicians slammed Prime Minister Fumio Kishida for failing to provide details about slush funds created by members of the governing Liberal Democratic Party’s leading faction, or where the money went. Kishida apologized for the scandal, which has rocked his government, on Thursday in a rare appearance before the parliamentary ethics committee that was broadcast live.

Kishida, who also proposed reforms of the Political Funds Control Law, apparently attended the session in an effort to end debate on the scandal and secure the swift passage of a 112 trillion yen ($744 billion) budget bill that has been repeatedly stalled.

Opposition lawmakers were outraged Friday when budget committee chair Itsunori Onodera, a governing party member, scheduled a vote later in the day on the budget bill. They submitted the no-confidence motion against Onodera, accusing him of attempting to push through the bill without sufficient debate on the budget. The no-confidence motion was rejected because of the governing party’s majority in Parliament.

Kishida has fought plummeting support ratings since the corruption scandal emerged. He has removed a number of Cabinet ministers and others from party executive posts, but support ratings for his government have dwindled to around 20%.

The scandal centers on unreported political funds raised through tickets sold for party events. It led to 10 people — lawmakers and their aides — being indicted in January.

More than 80 governing party lawmakers, most of them belonging to a major party faction previously led by assassinated former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, have acknowledged not reporting funds in a possible violation of the Political Funds Control Law. The money received from the long-term practice is alleged to have gone into unmonitored slush funds.

Earlier Friday, two prominent Abe-faction members — former trade and economy minister Yasutoshi Nishimura and former chief Cabinet secretary Hirokazu Matsuno — appeared before the ethics committee and denied personally running the slush funds.

Nishimura and Matsuno said Abe proposed ending the practice in 2022, citing the lack of transparency and risk of causing public distrust. They said the practice somehow resumed after Abe’s death but they did not know why.

Matsuno accepted about 10 million yen ($66,500) in unreported funds from the faction over the past five years, which he has since reported. He has acknowledged that his aides accepted the cash and it was kept in a safe in his office. He said the money was only spent for political activities.

Deliberations on the no-confidence motion held up Friday afternoon’s ethics hearing, where two more Abe-faction lawmakers were to appear.

The governing ethics committee, controlled by the governing party, is tasked with determining whether lawmakers violated political ethics and should be held responsible, but critics say it’s largely for show and expect little serious investigation.



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