(Nikkei: January 29, 2016 – p. 4)
The opposition parties are gaining traction as a result of the sudden resignation of Economic and Fiscal Policy Minister Akira Amari. The Democratic Party of Japan is set to grill Amari on the graft allegations.
DPJ Secretary-General Yukio Edano criticized Amari for misreading public sentiment on the timing of his resignation. He also blamed Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for having defended Amari for a week. Tadatomo Yoshida, leader of the Social Democratic Party, said “(What Amari did) warrants his resignation as a Diet member and he shouldn’t be allowed to blame everything on his aides.”
According to Amari’s explanation during a televised news conference on Jan. 28, portions of donations that his aide received were not logged in his political funds report. The opposition parties believe this constitutes a violation of the Political Fund Control Act. They are also examining whether the case constitutes violation of the law dealing with politicians who lobby for money.
The DPJ and the Japan Innovation Party plan to send a special joint task force to visit the construction company in Chiba that was allegedly involved in the graft scandal on Jan. 29 in a move to unravel the truth. Yoshiki Yamashita, head of the secretariat of the Japanese Communist Party, called for those involved in the scandal, including the person who told a weekly magazine about the alleged bribery, to be summoned to the Diet.
Ruling camp feels Amari’s resignation “couldn’t be helped”
Amari’s resignation is seen by many in the ruling parties as “something that couldn’t be helped” in keeping repercussions on Diet deliberations and the House of Councillors election this summer to a minimum. LDP General Affairs Chairman Toshihiro Nikai told reporters, “Amari gave consideration so that Diet affairs wouldn’t become stalled.” Komeito leader Natsuo Yamaguchi noted: “He decided to step down to take responsibility as a cabinet member and maintain his pride as a politician.”
The view had spread within the ruling parties that Diet deliberations could get bogged down if Amari stayed on in his post. Abe initially sought to retain Amari, but a faction leader in the LDP had cast doubt on Amari’s early accounts of his “vague recollection.”
Meanwhile, concerns are rife that the personnel reshuffle in the cabinet may affect Diet deliberations on TPP related bills and other key legislation.
Diet deliberation on FY2016 budget to be pushed back
The ruling parties conveyed to the opposition parties their plan to change the Diet deliberation schedule on the budget for fiscal 2016 when their Diet affairs chairpersons met on the evening of Jan. 28. The budget was initially scheduled to be presented to the Diet on Jan. 29 and discussions were due to start on Feb. 1, but the submission will be pushed back to Feb. 1 or later.
Calls are growing in the opposition camp for the government to arrange for a new economic policy speech to replace the one Amari conducted on Jan. 22. (Abridged)