December 27, 2023
TOKYO – Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has revealed plans for a new organization to discuss reforms of the Liberal Democratic Party in the New Year, as he seeks to restore trust in the party amid a fundraising scandal focused on the party’s Abe faction.
The Kishida administration, down in the polls, has taken a further hit from the scandal as senior members of the faction, including former Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno, have been voluntarily questioned by the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office over violations of the Political Funds Control Law.
“It is extremely regrettable that we have given the people cause to doubt us, and I apologize from the bottom of my heart,” Kishida said at a board of councillors meeting for Keidanren (Japan Business Foundation) in Tokyo on Monday. He touched on the scandal without being prompted.
“Public trust is a must for political stability, and political stability is a must for progress on policies. I intend to respond to the matter with renewed determination,” Kishida said solemnly.
Also on Monday, the prime minister held a meeting of seven leading LDP members, including party Vice President Taro Aso and Secretary General Toshimitsu Motegi, and confirmed with them the plan to set up the new organization at the earliest possible date in the New Year.
“To restore trust in our party, we will take firm action, such as by setting up the new organization,” Kishida told reporters after the meeting.
The party is likely focused on ensuring transparency of political funds and reforming factions, but Kishida only said, “We’d like to have many discussions.”
Meanwhile, Akira Nagatsuma, the secretary general of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, also spoke to reporters on the day, saying, “It is unheard of for so many senior members at the core of an administration to be questioned [by prosecutors]. The prime minister should apologize and also explain the matter.”