The ruling Liberal Democratic Party on Tuesday decided to cancel its annual convention for the first time since its formation in 1955, with no end in sight to the coronavirus outbreak.
Meanwhile, speculation is building that a vote-buying scandal involving former party members was behind the decision.
The convention is the LDP’s highest decision-making body. The party rules stipulate that the president convenes the gathering once a year.
The LDP had postponed the convention, originally set to bring together some 3,000 participants in March, due to the spread of COVID-19.
Because of the postponement, the party adopted its 2020 campaign policies at a plenary meeting of its lawmakers at the two chambers of the Diet instead of at the convention. It planned to hold this year’s convention in September.
Some LDP members speculate that the scandal involving former Justice Minister Katsuyuki Kawai, and his wife, Anri, both former LDP members, was behind the cancellation. The couple was arrested in June for allegedly violating the public offices election law.
There are suspicions that a total of ¥150 million the LDP headquarters paid to the couple was used in the alleged vote-buying for Anri in the July 2019 election for the House of Councilors.
The LDP usually holds a meeting with leaders of local LDP chapters across the country the night before the annual convention.
If such a meeting was held this year, “party executives would feel heavy pressure” from local leaders, said an LDP lawmaker who has served as a Cabinet member. “I guess the issue involving the Kawais was a reason to forgo this year’s convention.”
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