The communications ministry said Friday it has replaced two senior bureaucrats and is considering reprimands following reports that its officials were treated to expensive dinners by a son of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga in a possible violation of the ethics code. The transfers appear to be an attempt to choke off a growing scandal that threatens to delay Diet business.

Government officials are banned by law from being wined and dined by people with interests in affairs related to the officials’ duties. The son, Seigo Suga, works for Tohokushinsha Film, units of which operate satellite broadcasting services, and the ministry issues broadcast licenses to them.

The opposition is also making an issue of Suga’s refusal to move from a nearby apartment to the prime minister’s residence. PM Suga has tried to keep his family out of politics, but ironically, it could be his wife’s apparent reluctance to move  — and thus put herself in the limelight — that is behind all the unwelcome attention.

The Prime Minister’s Office (right) and his official residence (left), where PM Yoshihide Suga doesn't reside  | KYODO
The Prime Minister’s Office (right) and his official residence (left), where PM Yoshihide Suga doesn’t reside | KYODO

Yet despite the myriad scandals and problems with the coronavirus response that have dragged down Suga’s Cabinet’s support rate, the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan has been unable to profit from the stumbles, with its support still languishing in single figures.

The new CDP has 109 Lower House lawmakers, almost the same as the former Democratic Party of Japan had right before gaining power in 2009. But a lot of those figures are ex-DPJ faces from that era — which may be part of the problem. “The new party has been unable to escape the impression the public has toward the government of the former DPJ,” one party source tells Jiji.

Recently released figures show the ruling Liberal Democratic Party drew considerably more political funds than the CDP in 2019. LDP lawmakers raised ¥56.58 million each on average in political funds that year, compared to ¥26.07 million per member of the CDP. Donations from companies and industries to the LDP exceeded ¥2.4 billion that year, down 1.6% from 2018.