National

Hashimoto's position under threat over funding scandal

Pressure is mounting on former Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto to step down as chairman of the Liberal Democratic Party’s largest faction, with a meeting Thursday revealing that group members are losing confidence in him over a political funding scandal.

Executives of Heisei Kenkyukai (Heisei Study Group) held a round-table discussion with mid-ranking members of the group to hear their opinions on the faction’s leadership.

Some members stated directly that Hashimoto should step down, while others urged the executives to recognize that there is a crisis in the group, illustrated by the poor performance of faction members in the July 11 House of Councilors election, according to participants.

“I said (in the meeting) ‘No change, no chance,’ ” declared House of Representatives member Akihiko Kumashiro.

Hashimoto “should make a decision. The quicker the better.”

Heisei Kenkyukai has been rocked by a scandal over a 100 million yen contribution that was not listed in the group’s political donations report, as required by law.

Hashimoto reportedly received the money from the head of the Japan Dental Association, although the former prime minister has claimed that he does not remember receiving it.

Yuji Tsushima, a Lower House member and director general of Heisei Kenkyukai, said he would convey to Hashimoto the opinions expressed in the meeting later in the day.

The faction plans to hold an extraordinary meeting Friday, which Hashimoto is set to attend.

Speculation is rife that he will announce his intention to resign during the meeting.

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