Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Monday that his Liberal Democratic Party is ready to start discussions with other parties over revisions to the political funds control law and to investigate a slush fund scandal that has bruised the LDP.

As the 150-day ordinary parliament session kicked off Friday, opposition parties intensified their offensive against Kishida, who heads the LDP, over the scandal involving some of its factions that has taken a heavy toll on his Cabinet's popularity.

Kishida said the LDP is seeking to craft its amendments to the law, such as the introduction of measures to enshrine guilt by association between lawmakers and their staffers, to establish a "more stringent management system."

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida (standing) speaks during a parliamentary session in Tokyo on Jan. 29, 2024. (Kyodo)

He also said he has instructed executives of his party to establish a body that incorporates outside experts to question individuals related to the ongoing slush fund scandal in a bid to create a picture of how they collected and used political funds.

The LDP has been under intense scrutiny amid allegations that some of its factions failed to report revenue from fundraising parties over many years and accumulated slush funds to reimburse their members.

In the parliamentary session dedicated to intensive discussions about the political funds scandal, Kishida apologized for undermining the public's trust in politics, promising to "take a leading role" in delivering reforms.

Asked why the scandal took place, Kishida said the biggest cause was a "lack of compliance." He said the LDP plans to pursue the legal and political responsibility of the issue, although he did not elaborate on how those involved would be held accountable.

Earlier this month, lawmakers and accountants from a number of LDP factions, including one formerly led by Kishida, were indicted on suspicion of violating the political funds control law, but executive members escaped criminal charges due to a lack of evidence.

While Kishida was urged by an opposition lawmaker to disclose the list of LDP members who received slush money from their factions, he rejected the request, saying only that political funds reports are in the process of correction.

The opposition parties said senior members of the LDP's largest faction, previously headed by the late Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, should be summoned to testify at parliament.

In internal reform proposals approved on Thursday, the LDP pledged to move away from factions as vehicles for securing funds and nominating lawmakers to key government and party posts, but the party allowed them to continue as "policy groups."

The proposals also failed to mention whether to introduce "guilt by association" in the political funds control law. Guilt by association would force lawmakers to step down or ban them from running for reelection if their staffers are convicted.

Later Monday, LDP Secretary General Toshimitsu Motegi told reporters that he will dissolve his faction but maintain it as a policy group, devoid of a mechanism to gather funds or the authority to recommend lawmakers to governmental and party positions.

Within the LDP, four of factions have decided to disband. However, its vice president Taro Aso, who served as prime minister for around one year through September 2009, has declared the continuation of his group.

A prime minister typically delivers a policy speech on the opening day, but Kishida decided to postpone his after the LDP agreed to a demand by the major opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan that a session be held to address the scandal.

Kishida is scheduled to speak at the podium on Tuesday, which would be the first policy speech since the slush fund scandal was uncovered late last year.

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