(Nikkei: January 22, 2016 – p. 2)
The secret of politics is that “without the trust of the people, there can be no government.” Any capable politician will lose the trust of the people if they have something to hide. Akira Amari, minister in charge of economic revitalization and minister of state for economic and fiscal policy, must fulfill his responsibility to provide an explanation to voters about the alleged influence-peddling scandal by sincerely addressing the allegations.
The accusations of graft leveled against him include: (1) A Chiba-based construction company asked Amari’s secretary to mediate trouble and provided at least 12 million yen in return; (2) Amari himself received cash; and (3) the minister failed to include part of a large sum of money from the Chiba-based company in his report on political funds to the government. This could be a violation of the Political Funds Control Law.
Amari said: “I will thoroughly investigate the matter by letting third persons join the investigation. I will explain when the time comes.” Former Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) Minister Yuko Obuchi, caught up in a political funds scandal in 2014, took one year to investigate the matter and disclose that she had misused political funds, waiting out the storm. Amari should not buy time.
Amari should have immediately answered the question of whether he had accepted an envelope of cash, setting aside the question of the details of his secretary’s action. It is insincere for him to say that “he has only a dim memory of the meeting.”
Amari has been in charge of talks on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade pact. He is one of the cabinet ministers supporting Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. In case he steps down from his post, the impact of his resignation can’t be compared with that of Obuchi’s.
However, it is not good that he continues to serve in the cabinet. If the Abe administration is viewed as using its position of political dominance to cover up what happened, it could become weaker.
Abe said: “I’m sure that he will fulfill his accountability.” We discern a sense of crisis in his comment. He should order Amari to immediately investigate the matter and disclose the results of the investigation. He should consider whether the matter calls for Amari’s resignation following completion of the investigation.
The investigation of the scandal involving Reconstruction Minister Tsuyoshi Takagi has not yet been completed. The Abe administration should quickly put in place arrangements under which it can concentrate on the implementation of policies.