OSAKA – Lower House member Takaya Muto, who quit the Liberal Democratic Party on Wednesday over allegations of a financial scandal, has come under fire among his constituents in Shiga Prefecture for betraying their trust, and faces an uncertain future as an independent politician.
The controversial 36-year-old lawmaker was first elected to the Lower House in December 2012. He won re-election last December by a margin of nearly 20,000 votes. Muto represents Shiga’s No. 4 district, which includes Omihachiman, known among modern gourmands as the center of Omi beef.
On Thursday, LDP coalition partner Komeito weighed in on the controversy.
“It’s not enough just to resign from the party. The facts must be explained,” said Komeito head Natsuo Yamaguchi.
Muto explained the move by saying he did not want to cause any more trouble over the push by Prime Minster Shinzo Abe’s administration to enact controversial security bills.
But he has vowed to remain in office as a lawmaker and to fight in court the allegations leveled in the weekly Shukan Bunshun. An article in the publication claimed that Muto raised ¥41 million to buy stocks but that one of his secretaries misappropriated about ¥8 million and that about another ¥7 million had yet to be returned to six investors.
“Lawmakers cannot resign over one-sided articles where the facts are different from the reality,” Muto wrote on his Facebook page Thursday.
But in Shiga, the reaction was one of disappointment. Former Shiga Gov. Yukiko Kada, who briefly employed Muto years ago, was quoted by Kyodo News as saying that leaving the party was an act that betrayed the voters’ trust. Others called on Muto to provide a thorough explanation to local voters about the allegations.
Before the Shukan Bunshun report, Muto was best known for his July 30th remark on Twitter that targeted members of Students Emergency Action for Liberal Democracy (SEALDs), who have been protesting the security bills in front of the Diet and nationwide.
“This group of students called SEALDs says they’re working for freedom and democracy and they’re giving speeches in front of the Diet. But self-centered claims and extremely selfish thoughts of ‘It’s because I don’t want to go to war’ are the fault of the postwar education system and selfish individualism,” Muto tweeted. “It’s extremely regrettable.”
Those comments on Twitter, along with further statements that if the student protesters didn’t want war they should instead demonstrate in front of the Chinese and North Korean embassies, caused an uproar. In Shiga Prefecture, students connected to SEALDs and other groups opposed to the security bills called for Muto’s resignation as a Diet member.
“Muto’s words are not behavior that should be allowed,” said a statement from a Shiga chapter of Shinshu Otaniha, a Buddhist group.