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Editorial: Abe must advance policies, ending lax mind-set of government, LDP

  • November 1, 2019
  • , The Japan News , 7:35 p.m.
  • English Press

Two key ministers have resigned in the 1½ months since the Cabinet reshuffle. This is an extraordinary situation. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe must eliminate the laxity of the government and the Liberal Democratic Party.


Justice Minister Katsuyuki Kawai has resigned in the aftermath of a report by the weekly Shukan Bunshun magazine that the office of his wife Anri Kawai paid her campaign staff more than is legally allowed during her first successful campaign in July for election to the House of Councillors.


Her office reportedly paid ¥30,000 in daily wages to female boosters on a campaign vehicle, which is double the amount prescribed in the Order for Enforcement of the Public Offices Election Law. The magazine also reported that Kawai’s former state-paid secretary was involved in the case.


Acts that undermine the fairness of elections are impermissible. This is all the more so in the case of a justice minister who is responsible for maintaining law and order. Kawai would not be able to fulfill his duties while tainted with the scandal. Abe had every reason to effectively dismiss him as justice minister. Kawai was replaced by Masako Mori, a former state minister in charge of dealing with the declining birthrate. Her down-to-earth administrative abilities were likely taken into consideration.


If a secretary or aide to a lawmaker is convicted on charges requiring at least imprisonment for violation of the Public Offices Election Law, the lawmaker’s election will be nullified.


Katsuyuki and Anri Kawai should investigate what actually happened and fulfill their responsibility to explain.


Only last week, Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Isshu Sugawara was replaced in connection with the scandal in which his secretary contributed condolence money in Sugawara’s name to a person in his constituency. Abe has said that he must “sincerely accept harsh criticism.”


In the September reshuffle, there was a strong sense that Abe had allotted posts to LDP lawmakers as rewards for their contributions to sustaining his administration. Kawai and Sugawara are both close to Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga. Abe also treated Kawai preferentially by giving him such posts as special adviser to the prime minister.


In selecting Cabinet ministers, it is usual to investigate whether there are any problems as to political funds or the activities of candidates. It can be said that the checks on Kawai and Sugawara were lenient.


Gaffes by Cabinet ministers have happened one after another. The conceit and arrogance deriving from being in power for a long time seems to have prevailed in the government and the LDP. There is a host of domestic and foreign policy issues to be tackled. Abe needs to humbly reflect on his failure in Cabinet appointments and steadily promote policies.


Provisions made in 1992 still regulate the amount of remuneration paid to campaign staff. Due to the recent labor shortage, there is a deep-seated opinion that “it is hard to secure staff with the regulated amount of remuneration.”


If condolence money is brought by a lawmaker in person, it does not constitute an illegal act. But if a secretary or staffer of a party chapter delivers condolence money in the name of a lawmaker, it can certainly be regarded as an illegal act. It is true that such complicated regulations are hard to understand.


It is essential to reexamine whether regulations on elections and political activities fit with social norms and meet the needs of the present time. We suggest that the matter be discussed by the ruling and opposition parties.


The opposition parties are poised to reject requests for holding deliberations on bills until Abe gives an explanation and apologizes in the Diet over the successive resignations of Cabinet ministers. They should abandon this old-fashioned tactic of boycotting deliberations.

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