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Editorial: Ex-Japan PM Abe needs to explain false statements on dinner expenses scandal

The Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office's special investigation unit has requested former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe face questioning over his office's coverage of shortfalls in the costs for dinner functions held on the eve of annual cherry blossom-viewing parties he hosted.

    The dinner functions were organized by Abe's support group. His office reportedly covered at least 8 million yen (about $77,000) for the banquets over five years up to 2019. However, expenditures and income from participation fees for the functions were never listed in the office's political funding reports, which raises suspicions about violations of the Political Funds Control Act. It is a matter of course that Abe should sincerely respond to investigations over the case.

    Since the special investigation squad's probe into the case emerged, Abe has not provided a proper explanation over the matter to the public. When he was interviewed by reporters, he went no further than stating, "I have already answered questions in the Diet."

    However, the very statements that he made in the legislature have turned out to be false.

    Up until now, Abe has told the Diet that his office "didn't receive detailed statements of expenses from the hotels" that served as venues for the dinner functions, and that his office "never covered the costs."

    Furthermore, Abe has insisted that "there is no need to list (funds related to the events) in the political funding reports as there were absolutely no income or expenses on the part of my support group." He also put forward an illogical explanation that his office merely acted as a "mediator" and that it was the participants to the banquets themselves who made contracts with the hotels.

    Abe is gravely responsible for repeating false statements as prime minister at the time. According to the House of Representatives' Research Bureau, Abe was found to have made untruthful statements in the Diet a total of 33 times.

    He should reveal the facts and explain how and why he made those false remarks. Otherwise, the public's confidence in politics would not be restored.

    During his time in office, whenever his Cabinet ministers were hit by scandals, Abe stated, "Diet members have the responsibility to fully explain their allegations." He, then, should put those words into action himself.

    When Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga was recently questioned over the party expenses issue, he told the Diet, "I'm not in a position to be aware of the facts in detail." When he was asked to have his predecessor explain the matter, Suga shrugged off the request, saying, "That's something the Diet should decide."

    Toshihiro Nikai, secretary-general of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), also merely stated, "I expect (Abe) will make proper judgment himself, so I'll wait for it." Both Suga and Nikai sounded as if the issue is someone else's affair.

    There are, however, calls within the LDP urging Abe to respond. "He (Abe) should fulfill his accountability with his own words," LDP Executive Acting Secretary-General Seiko Noda has said.

    Nevertheless, the ruling coalition is going to close the Diet without extending its period. For the Diet to leave Abe's false statements unaddressed is tantamount to relinquishing its own role as the legislative branch of the government.

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