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Editorial: ‘Clean’ Komeito is gone; time for party to clean up its act

  • December 29, 2021
  • , The Asahi Shimbun , 2:40 p.m.
  • English Press

As the long-serving junior partner in the ruling coalition, Komeito now comes across as smug and irresponsible. The party has only itself to blame for perceptions it is no longer living up to its image as a “clean political party,” which it has projected since its foundation.

 

Without an all-party effort to humbly acknowledge this reality and resolve to never lapse again, Komeito cannot expect to regain its lost credibility.

 

Kiyohiko Toyama, a former Lower House legislator, was indicted without arrest on Dec. 28 by the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office for allegedly violating the Money Lending Control Law. He stands accused of illegally brokering special COVID-19 relief loans of the government-owned Japan Finance Corp. (JFC).

 

Toyama was allegedly involved in more than 100 cases and is said to have pocketed commissions worth about 10 million yen ($87,000).

 

Also indicted on the same charges without arrest was a former policy aide to former Komeito Lower House member Masataka Ota.

 

Toyama served as a vice minister in the Finance Ministry, which holds jurisdiction over JFC, from September 2019 to September 2020.

 

He resigned from the Diet in February after he came under fire for visiting a night club in Tokyo’s posh Ginza district while the capital was under a COVID-19 state of emergency. Tokyo prosecutors contend he continued to broker JFC loans illegally after his resignation.

 

He is believed to have started arranging the loans at the request of former advisers to Techno System Co., whose president has been indicted for fraud. The company has ties to the solar power industry.

 

However, the exact background, including details of the payments and receipt of commissions, have yet to be clarified.

 

Toyama was elected twice to the Upper House and four times to the Lower House. He also served as Komeito’s deputy secretary-general. As such, his future in the party was bright.

 

It is also a serious issue that a plural number of offices of the party’s lawmakers were involved in the scandal.

 

We feel Komeito has no choice but to mount its own investigation into the scandal to fulfill its accountability.

 

Komeito formed an alliance with the Liberal Democratic Party in 1999. Since then, Komeito has been out of power for only three years and three months, when the Democratic Party of Japan held the reins of government.

 

Toyama is of a generation of Komeito lawmakers who entered the political arena after the party became the LDP’s junior coalition partner. The same applies to a majority of Komeito legislators today.

 

A party in power exerts infinitely greater influence than any opposition party when it comes to policy decisions. Given the situation, we wonder whether Komeito members were aware of their responsibility to temper their political activities by maintaining the highest standards of integrity.

 

Having taken the straight-and-narrow stance on “money and politics,” there was a time when Komeito even pledged in its election campaign platform to ban all corporate and organizational donations to political parties and their local branches.

 

But the party has since remained silent on this matter. We fear Komeito has become desensitized to taking corporate cash donations.

 

Heeding closely to the needs of supporters and acting accordingly used to be Komeito’s forte.

 

After the homes of those closely associated with Toyama were searched in August, Komeito leader Natsuo Yamaguchi promised to establish a set of guidelines on what are allowed and what are forbidden when handling requests from the public and follow them through.

 

But four months have already passed, and the promise remains unfulfilled. 

 

There is no end to LDP money scandals. To urge its senior coalition partner to cleanse itself from within the administration, Komeito’s foremost responsibility now is to clean up its own house.

 

–The Asahi Shimbun, Dec. 29 

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