Monday’s resignations by Cabinet ministers Yuko Obuchi and Midori Matsushima after only six weeks in office recalls the volatility of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s first Cabinet, but financial scandals are not the preserve of the Liberal Democratic Party alone.
In December 2006, just three months into Abe’s first Cabinet, Genichiro Sata was forced to resign as minister for administrative reform after his political support group was found to have reported maintenance expenses of around ¥78 million for an office that did not exist.
Sata’s resignation was followed by the exits of three successive farm ministers, all of whom quit the following year amid accounting scandals.
The first, Toshikatsu Matsuoka, committed suicide in May 2007. He had failed to explain fully why his funds management office booked ¥170 million in electricity, gas and water expenses in the five years to 2005, even though its office was located in the official building for Diet members offices — which provides such services without charge.
Matsuoka’s successor, Norihiko Akagi, was removed from his post that August amid a scandal in which his support group claimed ¥123 million in office-related expenses over 16 years through 2005 and listed Akagi’s parents’ house as its main office, even though his parents indicated the house did not serve that role.
Akagi’s removal followed the July resignation of Defense Minister Fumio Kyuma, who drew flak for saying the dropping of the atomic bomb in Nagasaki “couldn’t be helped” in bringing the war to end.
The resignation by the next farm minister, Takehiko Endo, that September dealt a fresh blow to Abe, who had picked him just eight days earlier in a Cabinet reshuffle following the LDP’s major defeat in Upper House election in July. Endo quit in connection with an agricultural mutual aid association that he headed which was found to have improperly received government subsidies.
The LDP has dominated the Diet almost without interruption since World War II, but the Democratic Party of Japan was not immune to similar scandals during the brief period it held power from 2009 to 2012.
In March 2011, the DPJ’s Seiji Maehara resigned as foreign minister in the Cabinet of Prime Minister Naoto Kan, inaugurated in June 2010. Maehara was found to have received political donations from a foreign national, an act outlawed by the political funds control law.
During the tenure of Yoshihiko Noda, who took over from Kan in September 2011 as the third DPJ prime minister, Justice Minister Keishu Tanaka resigned for “health reasons” in October 2012 after admitting to his past ties with a major yakuza syndicate and was found to have accepted illegal donations from a company run by a foreign national.
Information From Kyodo Added