Aides to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe are taking seriously the prospect of reputational damage stemming from the indictment of Katsuyuki Kawai and his wife, Anri, both lawmakers who were until recently members of Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party.
If the couple, who were indicted Wednesday on charges of vote-buying, resign as lawmakers or lose their parliamentary seats, subsequent by-elections will likely to be tough for the LDP.
The indictment “gives a bad impression,” a senior LDP member said, adding that it was a “failure” that the couple had been brought close to the administration.
Tetsuo Saito, secretary-general of Komeito, the LDP’s junior coalition partner, told reporters Wednesday that the indictment “deals a significant blow to the administration.” The couple “have a serious responsibility for causing distrust in politics and deserve to resign as lawmakers,” Saito said.
Katsuyuki Kawai, a member of the House of Representatives, was a right-hand man to Abe. His posts included special adviser to the prime minister and special adviser for foreign affairs to the LDP president.
He was also close to Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga.
Anri Kawai, a House of Councilors member, received full support from Suga and others in her campaign in the Upper House election last year.
If the Kawais are found guilty, both will lose their seats and by-elections will take place.
Such a development could affect a decision by Abe on when to call a snap election. One focus of trials is ¥150 million in funds distributed by the party to the couple. If the funds are found to have been used to buy votes, the Abe administration’s credibility will be badly hurt.
The LDP’s heavy support for the Kawais has also become a target of criticism within the party.
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