TOKYO -- Ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai defended legislators inviting supporters in their home constituencies to attend a cherry blossom-viewing party the prime minister hosts using taxpayers' money.
"It's only natural for legislators to make arrangements so that those in their respective constituencies are invited to such a gathering," Nikai told a news conference on Nov. 12.
He thus expressed understanding toward legislators recommending that the executive branch of government invite their locally based supporters to the cherry blossom-viewing party.
Opposition parties have pointed out that the number of attendees at such parties has increased by about 30% and the cost almost doubled since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe returned to power in late 2012. The opposition camp criticizes the practice for "using public funds for private purposes."
Nikai declined to say whether he has ever invited someone to the party. However, he added, "There's no problem with doing so. I don't think such a practice would be called into question."
The Cabinet Office has requested 57.28 million yen in the fiscal 2020 state budget draft to cover the next cherry blossom-viewing party, nearly twice the amount allocated in the fiscal 2014 budget.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga justified the increase in the funding amount to cover party expenses.
"The Cabinet Office requests the allocation of funds that suits the current situation, such as by reflecting stepped-up countermeasures against terror and measures to ease congestion," he told a separate news conference.