Chief Cabinet Secretary Hidenao Nakagawa came under heavy fire Thursday over scandals involving a rightist figure and an extramarital affair, with some ruling bloc officials joining the opposition’s calls for his resignation.
Senior officials of the ruling coalition said he may have to step down to put an end to the furor.
“The problem is likely to have a lasting effect,” said a senior Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker, who declined to be named. He is one of the senior members of the Hashimoto faction — the ruling party’s largest faction.
LDP Secretary General Hiromu Nonaka implied the party may make an important decision if a new piece of evidence related to one of the two scandals is disclosed.
Some other senior LDP lawmakers said that Nakagawa’s fate is in Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori’s hands, expressing their unwillingness to continue supporting Nakagawa.
Nakagawa, Mori’s top aide, said he has no plans to step down but added that the decision of whether he remains in office is the prime minister’s.
“At the moment, I want to do my best to fulfill my duties,” the top government spokesman said at a regular news conference in the afternoon.
Earlier in the day, a senior figure in New Komeito also expressed displeasure over the scandals — a sign that support within the ruling bloc for Nakagawa may be waning.
“The public image of the Mori Cabinet will suffer if these things continue. . . . The sheer fact that (these allegations) are being reported by the media is the problem,” said the New Komeito lawmaker, who declined to be named. New Komeito is a key coalition partner of Mori’s Liberal Democratic Party.
The disgruntled lawmaker said it is up to the LDP to decide what to do with Nakagawa, but added, “We need to explain to our supporters why we keep the alliance with the LDP,” indicating that criticism of Nakagawa is spreading among the party’s rank and file.
All opposition parties have strongly criticized the LDP for allowing Nakagawa to remain in his post, saying that the top government spokesman has repeatedly lied to the Diet and should immediately step down.
Touching on pictures of his alleged lover in his home that ran with his photo credit in the latest edition of the weekly photo magazine Focus, Nakagawa told the day’s regular news conference that his former chauffeur let the woman into his house.
Nakagawa claimed that the ex-chauffeur has confessed that he let a woman into Nakagawa’s home in Hiroshima Prefecture without his consent in 1995.
The magazine carried two photos of the woman — with whom Nakagawa was allegedly having an affair — inside what the magazine said is Nakagawa’s home. One photo shows the woman sitting on a bed.
The magazine said Nakagawa himself invited her home and took the pictures while his wife was not at home in 1995.
According to Nakagawa’s explanation, the woman visited his home in the prefecture in early fall 1995 and begged the chauffeur to let her look inside. Nakagawa claimed the unidentified chauffeur, who allegedly knew her personally, recently apologized to him by fax.
Nakagawa said it was not clear who took the photos.
During the Lower House Cabinet Committee session earlier in the day, Nakagawa indirectly admitted having an affair with the woman, saying, “There may have been a time when I was not exactly a saint.”
He then insisted that it is “not an issue that should be taken up in the Diet.”
Nakagawa denied other magazine allegations related to the affair, such as his leaking police information about a drug bust to the woman and that he himself used illegal drugs.
“I have not done anything against the law,” he said.
Aside from his personal scandals, Nakagawa is also under fire for his handling of Mori’s blunder concerning a proposal the ruling coalition made to North Korea in 1997 in an effort to resolve alleged kidnappings of Japanese by North Korean agents.
Mori told reporters the same day that he has no plans to fire Nakagawa over the scandals. “I am not thinking of that,” he said.
Junichiro Koizumi, a senior member of Mori’s LDP faction, to which Nakagawa belongs, also denied media reports that there are growing calls from within the LDP for Nakagawa to step down. “There are no such calls,” he claimed.
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.