LDP slams Hatoyama on funds scandal

by Masami Ito

The ruling bloc lambasted Democratic Party of Japan President Yukio Hatoyama over the political funds scandal he’s embroiled in, but the opposition chief held his ground Thursday and said he had fulfilled his duty to explain the details.

The Lower House, controlled by the Liberal Democratic Party-New Komeito ruling coalition, convened a special panel on political ethics and elections, but DPJ committee members failed to show, adding fuel to the fire.

LDP Representative Akinori Eto slammed the DPJ for its absence, telling the committee: “I firmly protest this boycott, which is a sad act that will amplify public distrust on politics. It is extremely regrettable.”

But DPJ Diet affairs chief Kenji Yamaoka countered by saying the ruling bloc was only using the committee to attack Hatoyama and his party.

“It is an LDP tactic to use (the session) to slander our party,” Yamaoka said at a meeting of the DPJ’s Lower House members. “The political funds issue pertains to all lawmakers and should not be used just for the sake of maneuvering.”

Hatoyama held a news conference Tuesday during which he admitted his political funds management body reported ¥22 million in donations from people who are deceased or deny making any contribution.

The DPJ leader claimed the money actually came out of his own pocket, and insisted that an aide in charge of accounting acted on his own to make it seem like the cash was donated from individuals to make up for a shortfall in revenue.

Other opposition parties, however, have said Hatoyama needs to provide more details.

“I think I answered to the media and (to) the people’s doubts and questions in my own way during the news conference the other day,” Hatoyama told reporters Thursday. “Therefore, I think that I fulfilled my responsibility to explain” the situation.

The two sides have been slinging mud at each other over shady money in recent months, with former DPJ chief Ichiro Ozawa forced to resign over alleged illegal donations from Nishimatsu Construction Co. which also led to his aide’s arrest.

On the LDP side, trade minister Toshihiro Nikai eventually came under the same spotlight over the same contractor but was spared after prosecutors decided not to build a case against him.

Stop griping: Hosoda

Staff report

Liberal Democratic Party Secretary General Hiroyuki Hosoda warned party members Thursday to end “inappropriate” moves intended to force out Prime Minister Taro Aso, and urged them to focus solely on winning the next Lower House election.

Hosoda’s warning came a day after Aso backed down from reshuffling party executives and Cabinet ministers in the face of strong opposition from within the LDP. What was intended as a move to boost his sinking popularity only served to weaken Aso’s influence over the party.

Hosoda indirectly accused lawmakers of trying to gain media exposure and boost their chances of survival in the looming election by lashing out at Aso.