Reversing an earlier decision, top executives of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party agreed Monday that corporate donations should be banned beginning next year as stipulated in a 1995 law.

But strong opposition lingers within the LDP over the ban, and it may take some time before a full party consensus is reached. Chief Cabinet Secretary Mikio Aoki said earlier in the day that the final decision rests with Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi, who is also president of the LDP.

“We have promised the people (such a ban) and we have to follow it through,” LDP Secretary General Yoshiro Mori told an afternoon meeting of top party executives.

Participants at the meeting supported Mori’s position, saying that the matter rests in the hands of Mori and Obuchi, according to sources.

Mori himself reopened party debate on the issue Saturday during a speech in Kaga, Ishikawa Prefecture, in which he said he believes corporate donations should be banned as required by an article of the revised Political Funds Control Law, starting in January.

On Oct. 25, an LDP political reform panel compiled a report that lawmakers should be allowed to continue accepting corporate donations, effectively defying the revised Political Funds Control Law.

Under a political reform package that took effect in January 1995, it was agreed that corporate donations to individual lawmakers would be banned after a five-year period, or January 2000, in return for government subsidies to political parties. The decision was reached during a brief period when the LDP was ousted from power.

A clause on the ban was included in the package as a result of strong public criticism that such donations were feeding a series of money scandals involving lawmakers.

But many LDP lawmakers have recently insisted that such donations should be allowed to continue, saying that contributions from individuals — which in theory should replace the corporate money — have failed to increase over the past five years amid the economic slump and are not enough to finance their political activities.

While seeking the continuation of corporate donations, the party offered to cut public subsidies to political parties, which costs state coffers about 30 billion yen annually.

But the LDP’s decision drew fire from both the opposition camp and some lawmakers within the LDP. New Komeito, one of the LDP’s two coalition partners, was also against the idea.

During a regular meeting of the government and ruling parties earlier Monday, New Komeito chief Takenori Kanzaki urged the LDP to “positively consider” banning corporate donations.

Masakuni Murakami, chairman of the LDP’s Upper House general assembly, also called for upholding the ban by arguing the LDP should not give the impression that it is “straying” over the issue.

Liberal Party Secretary General Hirohisa Fujii, meanwhile, declined to express his party’s stance over the issue, saying it will first wait for the LDP’s decision.

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