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At long last, efforts have begun to resolve problems related to political donations. Despite their divergent stances on this matter, the ruling and opposition parties have in principle agreed to begin consultations on discussion of issues related to political funds.

Komeito proposes prohibiting political donations by companies and other organizations, including labor unions, and making politicians shoulder more responsibility in supervising official political funds reports — a view basically shared by Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama.

The Liberal Democratic Party had been reluctant to launch the consultative body, saying that the Democratic Party of Japan would use it to distract people’s attention from the funds scandals involving Mr. Hatoyama and DPJ Secretary General Ichiro Ozawa. The truth of the matter, however, is that the LDP relies more on donations from companies than the DPJ. For example, the LDP received some ¥2.7 billion from member companies of Nippon Keidanren (Japan Business Federation), Japan’s most powerful business lobby, in 2008 while the DPJ received some ¥100 million. The LDP is not enthusiastic about barring corporate donations.

Nippon Keidanren on Monday decided to halt its involvement in political donations. It will cease assessing the policies of political parties, which it began doing in 2004 and which served as the basis for deciding the size of its donations to each political party. Nippon Keidanren’s decision should make it easier for the parties to reform political funding.

The parties should establish a system in which every movement of money can be clearly traced by outsiders, and it should be based upon transparency and simplicity. Such a system would boost the people’s trust in politics. The parties should also discuss ways to encourage political donations from individuals while ensuring that wealthier voters do not exert a disproportional influence on the nation’s politics.

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