Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Wednesday that he will attend a parliamentary hearing on the political funds scandal that has rocked his Liberal Democratic Party, in an apparent attempt to break an impasse in negotiations on launching proceedings.

The ruling and opposition parties said they have agreed to hold the House of Representatives political ethics committee meeting for two days from Thursday, one day later than initially planned, with Kishida set to appear on the first day with the media in attendance.

Kishida will be the first incumbent prime minister to attend the deliberative council on political ethics, last held in July 2009. The committee is responsible for examining the political and moral conduct of lawmakers who face allegations of wrongdoing.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida speaks to reporters at his office in Tokyo on Feb. 28, 2024. (Kyodo)

Meanwhile, four lawmakers from the largest LDP faction at the center of the scandal, including former trade minister Yasutoshi Nishimura, are scheduled to join the session on Friday. This will also be fully open to the media.

The panel session was due to be called from Wednesday, but its opening was delayed after the ruling and opposition parties clashed over whether the media would be allowed to attend.

Earlier Wednesday, Kishida told reporters at his office that he would like to fulfill his accountability with regard to the scandal as president of the LDP in order to restore public trust in politics.

He added it is "extremely regrettable" that the ongoing "tug of war" between the ruling and opposition blocs had prevented the session from taking place, indicating he hoped his fellow LDP lawmakers would also agree to the presence of the media.

The LDP, which has been in power for most of the period since 1955, has come under intense scrutiny amid allegations that some of its factions neglected to report portions of their incomes from fundraising parties and created slush funds.

A total of 10 individuals belonging to three factions, including the one Kishida headed until December, have been either indicted or issued summary indictments by prosecutors for violating the political funds control law. They have decided to disband over the scandal.

Kishida's pledge comes as his government aims to secure swift passage of a budget for the next fiscal year starting in April. Diet deliberations on the budget are at a stalemate due to the stalemate over the committee hearings.

While hearings of the ethics panel are, in principle, closed, they can be made public when attendees agree. Of nine similar cases in the past, only one, in 1996, was completely closed, while five were open to the media.

The LDP had said five members, including lawmakers belonging to its biggest faction, had expressed their readiness to attend the hearings, but some of them had been reluctant to participate if they were open to the media.

Kishida is expected to explain the fundraising events he has held since taking office in October 2021. He has faced criticism for hosting such events, as a code of conduct for ministers urges Cabinet members to refrain from holding "large-scale" parties.

During the hearings, each attendee will make a presentation for around 15 minutes, followed by about an hour of questions from major parties. Unlike sworn witnesses in the Diet, individuals will not be charged with perjury even if they give false testimony.

The council can admonish lawmakers, such as by recommending they step down from their roles in the Diet or abstain from attending parliamentary sessions for a period, although no such measures have ever been taken.

Last week, the LDP said two lawmakers -- Ryu Shionoya, the de facto leader of the biggest faction formerly led by the late Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and Ryota Takeda, a senior member of another intraparty group, will attend the council.

The proposal, however, was not accepted by the opposition camp, which demanded the attendance of more LDP lawmakers. Later, the LDP said three additional senior members of its largest faction would attend the lower house council session.

The three are Nishimura, former Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno and former LDP Diet affairs chief Tsuyoshi Takagi, all of whom previously served as secretary general of the Abe faction.

After the latest slush funds scandal came to light late last year, key members within the Abe faction resigned from their party or government posts.

Around 580 million yen ($3.9 million) in total was passed back to 82 incumbent lawmakers belonging to the two factions during a five-year period through 2022, the party said.

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