Takako Doi, head of the Social Democratic Party of Japan, accused the ruling Liberal Democratic Party of preparing to exploit a loophole in the Political Funds Control Law during a debate in the Diet on Wednesday.

Doi was particularly incensed at the mushrooming number of local LDP chapters, which can receive corporate donations.

“I’m astounded to see last year’s Home Affairs Ministry figures,” Doi said while questioning Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi during a one-on-one debate session in the Upper House, pointing out that the LDP, which he heads, has some 5,800 local chapters nationwide and that this figure has continued to rise since the law was revised in 1994. “What is this?” she demanded.

The law was revised after a number of financial scandals involving LDP politicians came to light in the 1980s and 1990s.

Last week, Obuchi announced his intention to ban corporate donations to individual politicians beginning in January, as stipulated by the revised funds control law, but critics say politicians will still be able to receive corporate donations through local chapters, whose heads are, in most cases, the Diet members themselves.

The law places no limits on the number of local chapters a party can set up. A party can increase the number of its chapters as long as they have different names, but it is not permitted to do so simply to increase the funds it can receive.

According to the Home Affairs Ministry, the number of registered LDP local chapters stood at 5,736 as of January this year, an increase of 1,041 from four years ago.

“This means there are between 19 and 20 local chapters for every (LDP) Diet member elected from a single-seat constituency,” said Doi, demanding that Obuchi implement further restrictions on corporate donations. “I believe opinions like yours are a minority here in the Diet,” Obuchi answered, hinting that most Diet members want corporate donations through local chapters to continue.

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