Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida took decisive action to regain public trust amidst the intensifying political slush fund scandal within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) factions by making significant changes on Friday.
Kishida appointed former Education Minister Kisaburo Tokai as the new police chief, succeeding Koichi Hagiuda. Additionally, former Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada replaced Tsuyoshi Takagi as the head of the party’s Diet Affairs Committee.
Reports from local media revealed Kishida’s intention to select seasoned lawmakers who have no involvement in the scandal. Notably, both Tokai and Hamada do not belong to any party faction.
The scandal involves five major factions suspected of providing kickbacks to lawmakers who sold fundraising party tickets beyond their allocated quota, without properly documenting the revenue in political fund reports.
The special investigation squad of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office conducted searches at offices linked to two ruling Liberal Democratic Party factions. Among them was the largest faction previously led by late Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, known as Seiwaken or the Seiwa policy study group. Allegations pointed towards the faction’s failure to report kickbacks, estimated to total approximately 500 million yen (around 3.51 million U.S. dollars) over the last five years, in violation of the Political Funds Control Law.
In response to the scandal’s unfolding, more than ten senior officials or influential lawmakers have resigned from their positions within Kishida’s cabinet or the LDP.
The scandal’s fallout has contributed to a notable decline in public support for Kishida’s Cabinet, with a recent survey by Kyodo News showing a record-low support rate of 22.3 per cent. This decline signals a precarious situation for the administration.