With Japan’s next general election just around the corner, the ruling bloc is becoming increasingly concerned about the fallout from a series of corruption scandals involving lawmakers who once belonged to the coalition.
On Tuesday, House of Representatives lawmaker Tsukasa Akimoto, a former member of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, was handed a prison sentence without suspension for bribery linked to a government plan to introduce casino resorts in Japan.
“It’s a very big problem,” LDP parliamentary affairs chief Hiroshi Moriyama said.
“We need to take it seriously,” Hiroshige Seko, LDP secretary-general for the House of Councillors, said at a news conference.
Former LDP policy chief Fumio Kishida, who has declared his candidacy in the party’s Sept. 29 presidential election, said that the LDP bears responsibility for having endorsed Akimoto, even though he has already left the party.
Only recently, the LDP was rocked by a vote-buying scandal involving former Justice Minister Katsuyuki Kawai and his wife, Anri, both former LDP members, related to Anri’s 2019 election to the Upper House.
Those within the party are voicing concern over the impact of those scandals on the upcoming Lower House election, which must be held in autumn as the four-year term for members of the chamber ends on Oct. 21.
“The issue of money and politics is a heavy blow,” a person related to the party said.
Opposition lawmakers have demanded that Akimoto resign his membership of the Lower House immediately. They also expect his case to impact the ruling bloc ahead of the Lower House vote.
Yukio Edano, leader of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, told a party meeting that while Akimoto’s term as a Lower House member expires shortly, he still should take some sort of responsibility.
“The LDP should fulfill its responsibility and make Akimoto resign,” Akira Koike, head of the secretariat of the Japanese Communist Party, wrote in a Twitter post.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has been pushing the plan to introduce casino resorts in an effort to attract more foreign tourists to Japan. The casino plan is expected to be a key issue in the LDP’s leadership race after Suga’s decision to step down.
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