The Liberal Democratic Party suspended former Foreign Minister Makiko Tanaka from the party for two years Thursday, effectively kicking the popular lawmaker out of the party.

The LDP Ethics Committee said the punishment was taken because Tanaka did not cooperate with party operations, including a probe it launched into her financial affairs due to allegations she misappropriated the government-paid salaries of her secretaries.

The House of Representatives lawmaker is the first in the LDP to receive suspension as punishment.

Suspension is the third worst punishment on the LDP’s eight-tier scale. The most serious is expulsion, followed by recommendation to leave.

The decision means the LDP will not authorize Tanaka’s candidacy if a general election is held within the next two years. The decision also strips Tanaka of her right to attend LDP policy panels and to vote and run in the party’s presidential race.

Explaining its decision, the LDP Ethics Committee said Tanaka failed to adhere to a regulation on political ethics that requires members to “sincerely” clear any suspicions leveled against them. Tanaka also did little to back the LDP’s candidate in the House of Councilors by-election in April in Niigata Prefecture — Tanaka’s home turf, it said. The LDP lost to a candidate backed by the opposition camp.

However, the truth behind the allegations leveled against Tanaka has not come out.

The committee said the party’s probe into the issue has failed due to lack evidence, because Tanaka was not cooperative.

In a written statement, the committee urged Tanaka to clear up the allegations before the legislature, such at the Lower House Political Ethics Council.

“But if Tanaka submits sufficient evidence to show what is the truth within two years, the committee is prepared to annul the punishment,” said Chairman Nobuyuki Hanashi.

Tanaka is allowed to ask the committee to review the case.

Commenting on the punishment, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda told a regular news conference,”As a member of the LDP, I consider the punishment by no means light.”

“Tanaka should think why the party imposed such a punishment and take necessary actions as a politician.”

In April, two weekly magazines reported that Tanaka misused taxpayer money that was earmarked to pay her secretaries, who were also employees of Echigo Kotsu Co., a bus company in Niigata Prefecture run by the Tanaka family.

Tanaka has consistently denied committing any wrongdoing since the allegations became news in April.

Although she has offered her side of the story to members of the party’s political ethics hearing committee, she has rejected requests from the party leadership to submit a written statement.

Tanaka was not available for comment.

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.