DPJ to punish Kobayashi for inaction on scandal

Party discipline unspecified for lawmaker who wouldn't quit

by Jun Hongo

The Democratic Party of Japan will discipline Chiyomi Kobayashi since she has reneged on her decision to quit the Diet over a scandal involving ¥16 million in shady funds, Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama said Tuesday.

Kobayashi, whose election office allegedly received illegal donations from the Hokkaido Teachers Union before last August’s Lower House election, has denied any involvement in the misconduct.

Prosecutors have charged two people in connection with the funds, including a member of the union, but Kobayashi on Monday reneged on her pledge, announced March 16, to quit the Lower House. She also plans to stay in the DPJ.

“The fact that arrests were made for violation of the Political Funds Control Law should be taken fairly seriously,” Hatoyama, who has his own money scandal to contend with, told reporters. “We will have to take some kind of measures.”

Kobayashi’s decision to stay in the DPJ “is not the end of the case,” he said, adding that party executives should meet quickly to discuss measures.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirofumi Hirano also hinted at disciplinary measures, telling reporters the DPJ must decide what actions to take now that Kobayashi has revealed her intentions.

The DPJ has seen its support rate plunge after a series of money scandals broke, including unregistered donations to Hatoyama from his mother as well as the shady nature of cash paid into Secretary General Ichiro Ozawa’s fund management body that went toward a dubious land buy. Aides of both Hotoyama and Ozawa were arrested and indicted for alleged violation of the funds control law.

Kobayashi’s decision not to step down came days after media polls showed Hatoyama’s support rate nearing 30 percent — a number often regarded as a critical benchmark for a Cabinet to maintain its political strength. As the fresh scandal is likely to deal another blow, members of the Cabinet had strong words for Kobayashi as well as DPJ executives.

“The fact that no one has taken responsibility for the problems involving money and politics is being questioned, and that is a huge factor that is lowering the Cabinet approval rate,” said land minister Seiji Maehara, who has distanced himself from Ozawa.

“I believe there hasn’t been sufficient explanation over why (Kobayashi) is not stepping down despite the arrests and the indictments,” Yukio Edano, state minister in charge of administrative reform, said in a separate news conference.

Meanwhile, the opposition is preparing to submit a resolution to the Diet demanding Kobayahi’s ouster.

“Ms. Kobayashi should make a decision as a politician in order to regain trust in politics,” Liberal Democratic Party Secretary General Tadamori Oshima said. “There wasn’t any sense of guilt from Ms. Kobayashi during her news conference.”

Four people were arrested earlier this month over the illegal donations to Kobayashi’s camp, and two of them were charged. They are believed to have provided illegal donations totaling ¥16 million in four separate occasions between December 2008 and last July.

Kobayashi, 41, rebutted criticism and told reporters Monday she intends to take responsibility by committing to her tasks as a lawmaker.