Corruption: Japan PM to sack four ministers – Reports
Japan’s Prime Minister, Fumio Kishida, was expected to announce the sacking of four ministers on Wednesday over a major party financing scandal, media reports said.
Those to be axed include Kishida’s right-hand man, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno, and Yasutoshi Nishimura, the minister of economy, industry, and trade, the reports said.
Others are internal affairs minister Junji Suzuki and agriculture minister Ichiro Miyashita, plus five deputy ministers, several media outlets cited unnamed government and party sources as saying.
Kishida, 66, whose ratings have plummeted since taking office in October 2021, was expected to announce the decision at a news conference scheduled at 6.15pm local time (0915 GMT).
All those set to be fired are from the largest faction within the Liberal Democratic Party, which has governed Japan almost uninterrupted for decades.
Prosecutors are reportedly investigating claims that around 500 million yen ($3.4m) in kickbacks went to members of the faction, which used to be headed by assassinated ex-premier Shinzo Abe.
Matsuno, who is also the chief government spokesman, declined to give details on Wednesday but said Kishida will “take necessary measures from the viewpoint of recovering public trust.”
“Prime Minister Kishida has said the public trust in the government is shaking as a result of various issues having been pointed out over political fund-raising parties,” Matsuno told reporters.
Asked about the allegations about his role, Matsuno said he would “take appropriate measures” after his political group investigates the allegations.
The kickbacks allegedly went to party members who exceeded their ticket sales quotas for party fundraising events.
“If you are confident of selling tickets if you sell more than you are obliged to sell, that will all become your income, so that’s easy and great,” a senior official who used to work in the office of an LDP lawmaker told broadcaster ANN, his face concealed and his voice disguised.
After the closure of the current parliament session on Wednesday, prosecutors will accelerate their investigation into the allegations, with plans of interviewing dozens of Abe-faction lawmakers, the Yomiuri Daily said.
Another of those reportedly implicated is former Olympics minister Seiko Hashimoto.
The scandal reportedly widened earlier this week to a faction within the LDP headed, until recently, by Kishida.
On Wednesday, Kishida told reporters he had instructed his faction to investigate the claims and revise his political fund reports if necessary.
The opposition planned to file a no-confidence motion in his cabinet on Wednesday, which was expected to fail because the government has a majority.
“I’ll deal with the issue based on my beliefs while cooperating with the ruling party,” Kishida said Wednesday when asked about the motion.
Kishida’s poll ratings are the lowest for any premier since the LDP returned to power in 2012 because of voter unease about inflation as well as a string of other scandals.
This is despite a previous cabinet reshuffle in September and a stimulus package worth 17 trillion yen ($117bn) announced in November for the world’s third-largest economy.
Kishida can govern until 2025, but there has been speculation that he might call a snap election ahead of a likely tough internal leadership vote in the LDP next year.