Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on Friday refrained from making a commitment on the issue of tightening controls on political funds as his Liberal Democratic Party remained wary of banning so-called diverted donations.
He also put off providing a detailed account of his postal privatization plans until the next regular Diet session, due to start in January, although he put top priority on the issue in the policy speech he delivered to the Diet on Tuesday.
“Discussions on political-funds control should be deepened by the governing and other parties concerned. . . . Based on such discussions, the government will go ahead with necessary consideration,” Koizumi told a House of Councilors plenary session.
Koizumi was responding to a call from Toshiko Hamayotsu of New Komeito, the LDP’s ruling coalition partner, for a cap on donations between political bodies in an effort to clean up Japanese politics.
But Hamayotsu retracted her original plan to go further and seek a ban on diverted donations, apparently due to discussions within the governing coalition on the sidelines.
Diverted donations refer to funds given by corporations or organizations to political parties or party affiliates that eventually end up in the hands of individual politicians. This skirts a ban under the Political Funds Control Law on donations to individual politicians’ fund management organizations by corporations and organizations.
Critics say the practice makes it easy for corporations to bribe lawmakers because it is hard to track the money flow in this system.
The ruling parties are unlikely to agree on the outright ban New Komeito initially sought as they are putting a priority on revising the Political Funds Control Law to place a cap on donations between political bodies, coalition lawmakers said.
Revising the law has become a major topic for the ongoing Diet session, following a scandal in which the largest LDP faction allegedly received an undeclared check for 100 million yen from a dental lobby in 2001.
In his policy speech, Koizumi said there is a need to regain public confidence because of the scandal.
But he stopped short of speaking of his goal to submit a bill to revise the law during the session because of resistance within his party.
On postal privatization, Hamayotsu urged Koizumi not to be overly focused on the matter at a time when many other important issues — such as money politics, social security reform, North Korea’s abductions of Japanese citizens, and the burden on Okinawa of U.S. bases — are piling up.
“I will explain (the postal privatization plans) in more detail when a bill is drawn up and submitted to the Diet next year,” Koizumi said. “I am confident that I’ll be able to get support from the majority of the public after that.”
Defending his decision to support the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, Koizumi said, “I believe there were enough reasons to assume there were weapons of mass destruction at the time the United States exercised force against Iraq.”
With Friday’s Upper House session, the Diet concludes a three-day question-and-answer plenary session on Koizumi’s speech, which he delivered Tuesday.
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