What finally prodded Tokyo Gov. Yoichi Masuzoe to tender his resignation Wednesday over alleged misappropriation of political funds was a decision by the Liberal Democratic Party, which together with its ruling coalition partner Komeito backed Masuzoe in the 2014 gubernatorial race, to go along with an opposition-proposed no-confidence vote. The option of defying the looming vote, thus clinging to his position and dissolving the assembly appeared hopeless, since he would have had to quit anyway if a majority of the new assembly members after the snap election voted against him for a second time.

Even as the scandal made headlines week after week, the LDP seemed reluctant to push Masuzoe to quit because it had yet to find a candidate with a good chance of winning the special election to replace him, and was wary of holding the next election in the summer of 2020 — around the time Tokyo will be hosting the Olympics Games. The LDP’s turnabout reportedly came as it dawned on party leaders that Masuzoe’s problem was negatively affecting the party’s chances in the July 10 Upper House election, the campaign for which kicks off on Wednesday. If that’s case, it appears to be the political convenience of the parties in power that scripted the end to the protracted battle over Masuzoe’s financial irregularities.

Masuzoe, a popular scholar of international politics-turned Upper House member who served as health minister for two years starting during Shinzo Abe’s first stint as prime minister, once rated in media surveys as a leading prime minister hopeful. He quit the LDP after it fell from power in 2009 to form a small party of his own. When Tokyo Gov. Naoki Inose resigned in disgrace in 2014 over a money scandal, the LDP endorsed Masuzoe as a candidate who could win against ex-Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa — who was running on an anti-nuclear agenda and was backed by former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi — despite gripes in the LDP ranks that Masuzoe had deserted the party in a time of trouble. He ended up receiving 2.11 million votes, more than twice that of his closest opponent in a race that drew seven candidates.

As a political commentator and politician, Masuzoe was often sharply critical of the recurring money problems involving lawmakers. Yet financial issues led to his own downfall. In recent weeks, Masuzoe was roundly criticized for lavish spending during his official trips, use of official cars for weekend trips to his vacation home, and alleged misappropriation of millions in political funds for private purposes, such as family trips, wining and dining, and purchasing comic books and artworks. His attempt to deflect criticism by commissioning lawyers to probe the misappropriation of political funds — who determined last week that at least ¥4.4 million had been inappropriately diverted for private purposes but that none of the expenses could be found illegal because the law effectively sets no criteria on how political funds can legitimately be used — backfired by fueling more calls for his resignation.

Masuzoe’s repeated apologies and his offer to give up his salary as governor was to no avail as the entire metropolitan assembly turned against him. His last-ditch plea this week for members of the assembly to hold off the no-confidence vote until after the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in August — saying that political confusion in the host city for the 2020 Games just as this year’s Olympics are being held would damage Japan’s national interests and put Tokyo’s honor in doubt — made little sense. He should have instead realized sooner that the interests of the capital’s residents were being damaged by the political paralysis in his administration due to his scandal.

Masuzoe’s resignation before the no-confidence vote was held may leave the LDP breathing a sigh of relief that it managed to contain the damage from his scandal. But those who repeatedly urged the governor to account for his behavior should not consider his departure the end of story. His alleged misappropriation of political funds exposed a gaping loophole in the Political Funds Control Law — that nobody is punished for diverting political funds for private purposes because the law does not specify which “political expenses” are legal and which are not. If political parties took the problem so seriously that they felt compelled to call for the governor’s resignation, they should see it as their responsibility to make sure that such misappropriations will not be repeated.

The fact that two governors of the nation’s capital in succession have had to resign over money problems must be taken seriously. The interests of the major parties — particularly those in power — tend to hold sway in Tokyo’s high-profile gubernatorial elections, whose results can have repercussions in national politics. The names of several possible candidates in both the ruling and opposition camps have already been mentioned in media reports for the race to replace Masuzoe, which will likely be held either in late July or early August. Tokyo voters should see through the partisan interests in the upcoming race, the fourth since 2011, and choose the candidate whom they believe will make the best governor.

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