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Japan Lower House speaker facing sexual harassment allegation

Tokyo, May 21 (Jiji Press)–With only four weeks to go until the end of the ongoing session of the Diet, Japan’s parliament, opposition parties are poised to grill Hiroyuki Hosoda, speaker of the House of Representatives, the Diet’s lower chamber, over his alleged sexual harassment.


The allegation, which was reported by a weekly magazine, could become the first major scandal involving the administration of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida since its launch in October last year.


Concerns are now growing among members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, where Hosoda comes from, over possible impacts of the allegation on Diet deliberations on a fiscal 2022 supplementary budget that will start on Wednesday, pundits said.


According to a Shukan Bunshun weekly magazine report published Thursday, Hosoda asked a female reporter about her private life. He also made a phone call to the reporter late at night and asked her to come over to his place.


“If the allegation is true, it’s inappropriate,” Kenta Izumi, leader of the leading opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, told a press conference Friday, urging Hosoda to explain the matter himself at a meeting of the Lower House’s steering committee.


Izumi hinted at the possibility of his party submitting a no-confidence motion against the Lower House speaker if he fails to make a convincing explanation about the alleged sexual harassment.


On Friday, Hosoda denied the magazine report, saying that it is “completely untrue” and that he will lodge a protest against the magazine publisher.


The LDP aims to put an end to the suspicion by having Hosoda explain to the Lower House steering committee in writing about the allegation.


The latest suspicion was directed toward Hosoda not long after he came under fire earlier this month for making a controversial remark about the planned reallocation of 10 Lower House seats in single-seat electoral constituencies aimed at correcting vote-value disparities.


At an LDP gathering on May 10, Hosoda said, “You won’t receive any divine punishment even if you somewhat increase the number of Diet members” with an after-tax monthly income of less than 1 million yen.


He later withdrew the remark, after facing protests from opposition parties.


“He lacks the qualities required to be the Lower House speaker,” a senior CDP official said.


Opposition parties are expected to be on the offensive against the ruling camp in the run-up to this summer’s election for the House of Councillors, the upper chamber of the Diet.


Concerns are also increasing among members of Komeito, the coalition partner of the LDP.


“As the speaker is under suspicion (of committing sexual harassment), it is important for him to give a clear explanation,” Komeito Secretary-General Keiichi Ishii said in a press conference Friday.


A senior LDP official said, “A prolonged suspicion against the Lower House speaker could affect the upcoming Upper House election.”


“If the speaker faces a no-confidence motion, the ruling camp would be forced into a severe situation,” the LDP official added.

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