7th December 2023 – (Tokyo) Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is reportedly set to resign as the chief of his faction in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) due to an escalating slush funds scandal. According to local media reports on Thursday, Kishida, who is also the president of the LDP, will announce his resignation as the leader of Kochikai, the party’s fourth-largest faction. The decision comes as allegations have surfaced that several LDP factions, including Kochikai, underreported their revenue from political fundraising parties, with excess funds potentially being distributed as kickbacks to certain lawmakers.
One of the factions implicated in the scandal is Seiwaken, or the Seiwa policy study group, which was previously led by the late former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. It is suspected that Seiwaken accumulated secret funds totalling approximately 100 million yen (about $679,000) over a span of at least five years until 2022. Recent media reports indicate that at least 10 LDP lawmakers associated with the Abe faction received kickbacks.
While many prime ministers typically distance themselves from their factions while in office, Kishida has remained actively involved as the leader of his faction since assuming office in October 2021. However, in an effort to manage the fallout from the scandal, Kishida requested on Wednesday that all LDP factions refrain from holding fundraising parties for the time being. As the situation unfolds, Prime Minister Kishida is now in “damage control mode,” as described by the Japan Times.
The slush funds scandal has cast a shadow over the ruling party and adds to the challenges facing Prime Minister Kishida, who took office with the goal of rejuvenating the LDP and addressing pressing domestic and international issues. The scandal highlights the ongoing issue of political funding practices in Japan and raises concerns about transparency and accountability within the ruling party.