Opposition assails Abe over Nishikawa resignation


Staff Writer

Opposition parties refused Tuesday to convene a scheduled session of the Lower House Budget Committee and instead unleashed a salvo of taunts over the surprise resignation of farm minister Koya Nishikawa the day before.

Nishikawa resigned over a donation scandal, and opposition parties took the opportunity to lay into Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for poor judgment in appointing him.

Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party had hoped to suffer minimal fallout from Nishikawa’s departure, but with the opposition digging in its heels, it looked increasingly as if the damage will include the fiscal 2015 draft budget not being approved by March 31, the last day of the current fiscal year.

Delaying the budget’s enactment will also affect deliberations of other bills scheduled to be submitted to the current Diet session, including on security legislation and a bill to revise the worker dispatch law.

The opposition camp offered to reconvene the Lower House Budget Committee on Wednesday if Abe will show up to answer questions. The LDP-Komeito coalition agreed.

The opposition parties meanwhile demanded that Nishikawa declare which companies he has received management fees from.

If the budget is not enacted by March 31, the Abe administration will need to draw up a provisional budget to cover the gap for the first time in two years.

LDP Secretary-General Sadakazu Tanigaki acknowledged that Nishikawa’s resignation might influence the deliberations of the budget committee and urged LDP executives to work hard to avoid stalling budget discussions.

“Considering the current economic situation, it is the public’s wish (for us) to enact the budget as early as possible. We want to work to deal with the issue and to minimize the disruption,” Tanigaki told reporters in the Diet.

Nishikawa, 72, tendered his resignation to Abe on Monday after the opposition camp hounded him over donations received in 2012 and 2013 by an LDP branch he headed in Tochigi Prefecture.

News reports have said a timber company in Tochigi donated ¥3 million to the branch in September 2012, about four months after the government decided to grant the firm a ¥700 million subsidy. Nishikawa was not a lawmaker at that time.

Under the Political Funds Control Law, companies are banned from making political donations within a year of receiving notice that they will get a subsidy.

Nishikawa was also questioned about dubious political donations in July 2013 from the sugar industry — a body potentially affected by the ongoing Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade negotiations.

Nishikawa has denied wrongdoing in both cases.