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Japan lawmaker claims he was asked to pay kickback money during recent general election

Hirohiko Izumida (Mainichi)

NIIGATA -- A ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) legislator said on Twitter that he was demanded to pay kickback money in the October House of Representatives election, while not mentioning from whom, saying that he was told he would lose if he didn't pay.

    LDP member and former Niigata Gov. Hirohiko Izumida, 59, sought reelection in the Niigata No. 5 single-seat constituency in the latest general election but lost to first-time independent Ryuichi Yoneyama, who had succeeded Izumida as Niigata governor. Izumida then came back to win a seat in proportional representation for his second term in the lower house.

    Izumida posted a tweet at around 2:30 p.m. on Nov. 29, with the title, "The dark side of a general election: Niigata No. 5 constituency," in which he wrote: "I was demanded to pay 20-30 million yen (approx. between $176,000 and $264,000) in this past House of Representatives election. It was in the context of, 'You'll lose if you don't pay.'"

    He added, "I thought it was ridiculous as there was an incident just recently in Hiroshima," as he kept in mind the vote-buying scandal in the 2019 House of Councillors election involving former lower house member Katsuyuki Kawai and his lawmaker wife Anri, who resigned following indictment over the violation of the Public Offices Election Act. Izumida also tweeted, "I declined to take part in an illegal activity, and after that I had a tough time in the election."

    To the Mainichi Shimbun's inquiry about his tweet, Izumida's office in the Niigata Prefecture city of Nagaoka acknowledged that it was indeed from the lawmaker himself. His office's representative said, "We believe he will explain the details at some point, though we don't know how or when."

    According to a senior official at the LDP's Niigata prefectural chapter, Izumida had already reported the money-asking incident to chapter chairman and lower house member Shuichi Takatori, who said he has no comment over Izumida's reporting or his tweet.

    The tweet in question was retweeted over 2,500 times in some four hours, with replies saying that the lawmaker "should clarify who demanded the money" and "I hope you inform us on the facts and any developments."

    (Japanese original by Hidenori Kitamura, Niigata Bureau, and Atsushi Arai, Nagaoka Local Bureau)

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