Japan: Fundraising scandal forces four cabinet ministers to resign

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Ex-Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno was considered a right-hand man to PM Kishida

Four important government leaders in Japan resigned on Thursday because of a problem with raising money for the ruling party’s strongest group.

It is claimed that over 500 million yen (equivalent to £2. 8 million or $3. 4 million) was put into secret funds between 2017 and 2022.

Tokyo prosecutors are investigating corruption, according to Nikkei.

The Japan Prime Minister Fumio Kishida‘s government is becoming more unpopular and his approval ratings are dropping. This is another setback for him.

A new survey from NHK showed that the support for the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has dropped to under 30%. This is the first time it has been this low since 2012. The LDP has been in power for a long time, since 1955.

Voters are upset about prices going up and they are also angry about how Mr. Kishida dealt with past problems.

Hirokazu Matsuno, a top government spokesman and close advisor to Mr Kishida, was the most well-known of the four ministers. On Thursday, the Economy and Industry Minister, the Internal Affairs Minister, and the Agriculture Minister all resigned.

New people to take their place will be announced by the end of today.

Also, five high-ranking deputy ministers and one deputy minister from the same group, previously led by the late PM Shinzo Abe, also resigned.

The LDP now has no members from its biggest and most powerful group in the government because they have all quit.

Mr Kishida, who started his job in October 2021, said on Wednesday that he will address the accusations directly.

The group didn’t tell the authorities about the money they raised.

The Seiwa policy group set limits on how many tickets its members could sell for party fundraising events.

When they sold more than expected, the members got extra money. This itself does not break Japanese law.

However, in this case, it is suggested that the extra money was not recorded and instead put into secret funds, due to a criminal complaint.

Mr Matsuno is being accused of not reporting over 10 million yen in income.

Other big groups in the LDP, like the one Mr Kishida used to lead, are also being accused of not reporting all the money they raised.

On Wednesday, the lower house of Japan’s government voted against a motion to remove Mr Kishida’s cabinet, which was proposed by the opposition party.

The LDP will choose new leaders in September. There will be a big vote in 2025.

Some people think that even if Mr. Kishida keeps his job, the scandal will still make people less likely to trust him.

Kishida will continue as the president for now because no one else is an obvious choice for the next president. “But if someone else becomes a real competitor, they might consider replacing Kishida,” said Yu Uchiyama, a professor at the University of Tokyo, to Reuters.

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