National / Politics

Komeito member quits Diet over misuse of lawmakers’ housing

Kyodo

Hiroaki Nagasawa, a senior vice minister in the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and a Komeito party member, resigned Tuesday from the House of Councillors after letting an acquaintance stay at a housing complex for lawmakers.

An Upper House member since 2010, Nagasawa left the party the same day and is expected to resign as a senior vice minister of the Reconstruction Agency shortly. Komeito governs in coalition with the larger Liberal Democratic Party.

Nagasawa, 59, admitted to Komeito Secretary-General Yoshihisa Inoue that he had “clearly broken the rules and (acted) indiscreetly” by giving his female acquaintance a key to the complex, party leader Natsuo Yamaguchi said earlier Tuesday.

Inoue had pressed Nagasawa on the issue following inquiries to the party by a weekly magazine.

“As a rule, lawmakers must not let third parties stay in the lodgings, and our party cannot look past this,” Yamaguchi told a news conference.

Accommodation is provided to lawmakers who live outside of Tokyo to make it easier for them to carry out official business.

The revelation comes as Komeito and other parties seek to gain public support ahead of a House of Representatives election expected next month.

Yamaguchi said the party wants to “minimize the effect” of Nagasawa’s resignation on the Lower House election.

Nagasawa, a two-term Upper House member who was re-elected in July 2016, was appointed as senior vice reconstruction minister the following month.

Reconstruction minister Masayoshi Yoshino, a member of the LDP, expressed surprise at the developments on Tuesday, saying, “I don’t know the facts.”

The Reconstruction Agency, established in 2012 to engage in rebuilding efforts in the aftermath of the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster, has been hobbled by incompetence within its senior ranks this year.

Shunsuke Mutai resigned as parliamentary vice reconstruction minister in March over his handling of an earlier gaffe in a typhoon-hit area, and Masahiro Imamura quit as reconstruction minister in April after suggesting it was a good thing the 2011 quake hit northeastern Japan rather than the Tokyo area.

Separately, veteran lawmaker Masahiko Komura, LDP vice president, has decided not to run in the Lower House election next month after deciding it will be too physically taxing, a source said.

The 75-year-old lawyer-turned-lawmaker, who served as foreign, defense and justice ministers and held other key Cabinet posts, has already told Abe, who doubles as LDP chief, of his plans, the source said Monday.