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Editorial: Japan ruling party must not evade responsibility for lawmakers' scandals

House of Representatives member Takeru Yoshikawa has been accused of going out for drinks with an 18-year-old college student, staying at a hotel with her, and giving her 40,000 yen (about $300) in exchange. The allegations were reported by the weekly Shukan Post magazine along with photographs.

    If the accusations are true, we would have to say his qualifications as a Diet member are lacking.

    Yoshikawa, who was a member of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) at the time of the incident, submitted his resignation from the party, which was accepted. He has since been absent from Diet deliberations and has made no public appearances. If he has nothing to hide, he ought to be able to explain himself. Otherwise, he must resign as a lawmaker.

    Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told a June 15 press conference, "Merely quitting the party does not spare him from responsibility. If he can't fulfill his accountability, it will directly affect his future as a Diet member." A senior LDP official also demanded during a press interview that Yoshikawa step down.

    Nevertheless, the LDP's response to the matter leaves us puzzled.

    Soon after the weekly magazine broke the news, Prime Minister Kishida apparently instructed senior LDP officials to question Yoshikawa over the accusations. If that is the case, the LDP should not have accepted his notification for quitting the party on the day it was filed, and instead should have first looked into the facts.

    The main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan submitted a resolution to the lower house demanding Yoshikawa resign as a lawmaker, claiming that "if the reports are true, he assisted in illegal acts." However, the LDP in effect thwarted a vote on the resolution in a plenary session on the grounds that it couldn't verify the facts.

    The LDP may have been trying to avoid undermining its own profile ahead of the House of Councillors election, but it can't be helped that the party is being accused of trying to cover up what had happened through such a response.

    Yoshikawa is serving his third term, but has never won in a single-seat constituency. He has retained his seat on an LDP ticket either through a revival via proportional representation or being awarded a vacant spot as a runner-up. As he belonged to the LDP's Kishida faction, the prime minister carries grave responsibility for having campaigned for Yoshikawa in elections as the faction chief.

    Yoshikawa is not alone in refusing to give an account for his allegations amid a scandal. Lower house speaker Hiroyuki Hosoda is accused of sexually harassing female reporters by the weekly Shukan Bunshun magazine, but he merely released a brief comment stating the report is "groundless." Prime Minister Kishida has adopted a wait-and-see approach, saying, "The speaker will make an adequate decision."

    While the regular session of the Diet has wrapped up, it is unacceptable to attempt to draw the curtain on the scandals while leaving the problems unresolved.

    If the LDP is to continue to evade its responsibility without clarifying and resolving the scandals involving its current and former members, it will cost the party its own fate in the upper house contest.

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