Political parties have rushed to announce that they will donate the October allowance that was paid in full to House of Representatives lawmakers, some of whom were only in office for one day.
On top of their regular salary, each member of the Diet, Japan's parliament, is given a monthly allowance of ¥1 million to cover transport, lodging and other costs, regardless of the number of days in the month in which he or she is in office.
Major opposition party Nippon Ishin no Kai was the first to announce such plans on Monday.
The party's leader, Osaka Mayor Ichiro Matsui, said that lawmakers who newly won Lower House seats in the Oct. 31 general election will donate the October allowance in full, as they were in office for only one day in the month. Nippon Ishin Lower House members who were re-elected in the poll will give up half the amount, as they had only been working as lawmakers until the dissolution of the lower chamber on Oct. 14. Matsui said the funds would go to disaster-hit areas and other causes.
The party announced the move in an apparent bid to boost its profile ahead of next summer's House of Councillors election.
The ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner, Komeito, followed suit Tuesday.
The two parties' newly elected Lower House members will donate the full amount of their October allowance, while re-elected members are set to donate ¥550,000.
"Being paid in full doesn't feel right," LDP Secretary-General Toshimitsu Motegi said at a news conference Tuesday, calling for discussions among both the ruling and opposition parties on the issue.
"Each party should voluntarily give back the allowance without waiting for the current system to be amended," he added.
Komeito's donation plan was announced by its leader, Natsuo Yamaguchi.
Akira Koike, head of the secretariat of the Japanese Communist Party, told a news conference Tuesday that its lawmakers' allowances have been managed jointly to ensure the effective use of the money. The party will consider the appropriate use of the October allowance, including the possibility of donating the money, he said.
At a meeting of party executives Tuesday, the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan decided to submit a bill to the extraordinary Diet session, slated to be convened in December, that would enable the allowance to be paid at a daily rate rather than by month.
On the possibility of donating the October allowance, CDP Secretary-General Tetsuro Fukuyama told reporters, "The matter will be discussed in the Diet as the LDP and Komeito also seem to have their own ideas."
Discussions on the allowance have so far failed to make progress because lawmakers do not have to clarify what they are spent on, thus making the money easy to use.
Some in the LDP are worried that the latest developments regarding donations may lead to a cut in the allowance.
"Properly doing politics is costly, so we need at least ¥1 million," an LDP source said.
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.