Japanese PM Kishida Rules Out Dissolving House Amid Political Scandal

Kishida Rejects Opposition Calls for Snap Election, Focuses on Governance Amid Slush Funds Controversy.

Tokyo, June 19, 2024 — In a pivotal parliamentary debate on Wednesday, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida firmly rejected opposition calls to dissolve the House of Representatives, amidst mounting speculation that the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) could face a substantial defeat in a snap election. “I will concentrate on making achievements on issues that cannot be postponed,” Kishida asserted, emphasizing his commitment to governance despite the slush funds scandal enveloping his party.

Kishida’s declaration came in response to Kenta Izumi, leader of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDPJ), who accused the Prime Minister of neglecting necessary political money reforms. Izumi urged Kishida to seek a fresh mandate from the public, highlighting the LDP’s failure to address the scandal effectively. However, Kishida remained resolute, stating, “I have to fulfill my responsibility as the president of the LDP to restore public trust in politics.”

With the ordinary Diet session set to conclude on Sunday, attention now shifts to Kishida’s bid for reelection in the LDP’s presidential race, scheduled for September. The Prime Minister’s approval ratings have plummeted to their lowest since he assumed office in October 2021, largely due to the ongoing political funds controversy.

The debate, notable as the first of its kind in three years, unfolded shortly after the parliament enacted a revised law to reform political funding rules. Proposed by the LDP, the law has been criticized for inadequately addressing the pervasive issue of money in politics. Nobuyuki Baba, leader of the Japan Innovation Party, called for Kishida’s resignation, arguing that the LDP needs a leader capable of steady reforms. Kishida dismissed this demand, reinforcing his stance against a lower house dissolution.

The revised political funds control law, enacted just days before the Diet session’s end, has drawn sharp criticism from opposition parties. The Japan Innovation Party, initially supportive, voted against the bill in the House of Councillors, citing unmet agreements on stricter rules for policy activity funds. The CDPJ is preparing to submit a no-confidence motion against Kishida’s Cabinet, questioning his commitment to tackling the funds scandal.

Public dissatisfaction with the amended law was evident in Izumi’s critique during the debate, where he expressed disappointment over the LDP’s handling of the issue. The CDPJ gained three seats from the LDP in lower house by-elections in April, bolstering their call for a government change. “We definitely want a change of government,” Izumi declared, advocating for more honest politics under his party.

The no-confidence motion, expected to be voted down by the ruling coalition of the LDP and Komeito party, signals escalating political tensions. Baba, who began his career with the LDP, suggested that opposing the motion would be difficult for his party, highlighting the deepening divide within the political landscape.

Despite the LDP’s dominant position since 1955, primarily supported by big private businesses, the political funds scandal has rocked the party. The revised law, effective January 2027, reduces the reporting threshold for fundraising party ticket purchases from 200,000 yen to 50,000 yen, but critics argue it does little to curb the potential for slush funds. The law mandates disclosure of policy activity funds for up to 10 years but lacks clarity on the implementation timeline.

Kishida, facing internal dissent and external pressure, defended the revised law as a step towards transparency. However, opposition parties and political analysts remain skeptical, calling for more drastic measures, including a ban on corporate donations to political parties.

As Japan navigates this turbulent political period, Kishida’s ability to restore public trust and secure his position within the LDP remains uncertain, with the shadow of the slush funds scandal looming large over his administration.

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