Staff writer

Tetsuzo Fuyushiba, secretary general of New Komeito, had an answer waiting for reporters wanting to know what the party would do if a resolution were put to a vote demanding that Takao Fujinami voluntarily resign as a Diet member.

Fujinami is the former Chief Cabinet Secretary whose bribery conviction in the 1980s Recruit scandal was recently upheld by the Supreme Court.

“I don’t answer hypothetical questions,” Fuyushiba said Thursday, avoiding the question but spotlighting the party’s difficult position in handling issues concerning political corruption.

“We will consider it when such a resolution is submitted,” Fuyushiba continued.

Before joining the Liberal Democratic Party-led ruling coalition in early October, New Komeito was a party that would have been more than willing to support such a resolution.

Fujinami left the LDP late last month after the Supreme Court ruling, which upheld a 1997 high court ruling that found him guilty of accepting bribes in the Recruit scandal.

The conviction did not strip him of his status as a Diet member.

When a similar resolution was submitted against Fujinami in 1997, some lawmakers who currently belong to the party supported it. That motion was never put to a floor vote due to opposition from the LDP.

Members of New Komeito and its predecessors have long described themselves as the “Clean Government” party and bashed the LDP as a corrupt party pork-barreling through politics. But the party now catches itself in a dilemma between its stated ethics and the need to maintain ties with the LDP.

“I believe he should resign, taking seriously the graveness of the conviction by the Supreme Court,” party member Junji Higashi said at a Lower House committee session on Thursday.

But he and other New Komeito members later sided with the party’s coalition partners to reject an opposition proposal to vote on whether to demand that Fujinami resign from the Diet, apparently out of fear that a vote on the resolution would have exposed its contradictory position on the issue.

Fujinami’s case is not the only issue concerning political reform that could pit New Komeito against its coalition partners.

Another is the LDP’s attempts to effectively ignore an article of the Political Funds Control Law that would ban corporate contributions to individual lawmakers starting in January.

The article was added in a 1995 amendment after a series of money scandals bred public distrust of politicians. But since the law requires additional legislation to put the ban into effect, the LDP seems to believe that it can nix the provision by simply taking no action.

New Komeito is openly demanding that corporate contributions be banned next year as stipulated by the law, but many Diet watchers expect the party will eventually strike a compromise with the LDP to avoid creating divisions within the ruling coalition.

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