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Editorial: Scandals tying Japanese politicians to money cannot be left unsolved

A series of scandals -- including some involving shady ties between politicians and money -- plagued the administrations of prime ministers Shinzo Abe and Yoshihide Suga. Many questions remain, but incumbent Prime Minister Fumio Kishida appears passive about getting to the bottom of these matters.

    Public distrust of the government runs deep. That distrust showed up symbolically in the loss that the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP)'s then secretary-general Akira Amari suffered in his single-seat constituency during the Oct. 31 House of Representatives election.

    Amari had not given the public a convincing explanation about an influence-peddling scandal involving the government-backed Urban Renaissance Agency (UR). Even when he was asked about the scandal following his appointment as LDP secretary-general under the Kishida administration, he repeatedly answered that he had fulfilled his accountability on the issue.

    The prime minister cannot escape responsibility for appointing Amari to such an important post.

    There is also the issue of the LDP providing 150 million yen (approx. $1.32 million) to the camp of former House of Councillors' member Anri Kawai, who was found guilty earlier this year of vote buying.

    In September, the LDP announced its position -- based on documents drawn up by Kawai and her husband, former Justice Minister Katsuyuki Kawai -- that the money was not used to buy votes.

    But a unilateral explanation from the parties involved cannot win the trust and understanding of the public. We still do not know why and how funds 10 times those for another LDP candidate in the same Hiroshima constituency were given to the Anri Kawai camp.

    Questions about soirees held on the eve of sakura-viewing parties hosted by then Prime Minister Abe have still gone unanswered. Abe has argued that the money he spent to supplement fees incurred for functions held the night before the cherry blossom-viewing events did not amount to donations to voters, which are banned by the Public Offices Election Act.

    But many unnatural points remain, such as Abe's failure to submit documents that prove what he is saying is true. A committee for the inquest of prosecution comprising members of the public determined that dropping the case was unjust.

    Then there is the yet unresolved issue of government document tampering surrounding the sale of state-owned land to nationalist school operator Moritomo Gakuen at a highly discounted price. The bereaved family of a bureaucrat who died by suicide after being forced to take part in the tampering is seeking a renewed investigation into the case. There are also ruling party figures calling for further investigation and an explanation of what happened. We still do not know how and why state land was sold for such an unusually low price.

    Prime Minister Kishida spoke about these issues as if they did not concern him directly, telling a press conference following the general election, "If there is a need, it is important for politicians to provide explanations from their positions."

    Such an attitude does not help dispel people's distrust of politics. If the interests of certain personages were put first, the public will likely question the fairness of politics.

    It is the duty of a prime minister who, as a result of the House of Representatives election will continue in power, to conduct a thorough investigation and fulfill his accountability for the distrust born out of a long-term administration's arrogance and carelessness.

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