Japan's ruling and opposition camps have decided to put off holding a parliamentary hearing on a political funds scandal, supposed to begin Wednesday, as they remain at odds over whether the meetings should be open to the media.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida speaks to reporters at his office in Tokyo on Feb. 27, 2024. (Kyodo)

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party and the opposition bloc have agreed to hold the House of Representatives political ethics committee meeting, but they are still divided over whether its sessions should be disclosed.

On Tuesday, an LDP lawmaker told reporters that some of its five key members -- including former trade minister Yasutoshi Nishimura, a prominent member of the LDP's largest faction -- are willing to undergo full disclosure during the lower house session meetings.

But the opposition parties have urged the LDP, led by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, to ensure that all five members attend the hearings and that they are conducted publicly.

Of nine similar cases in the past, only one, in 1996, was completely closed, while five were open to the media. The LDP has informed opposition parties that only Diet members will be allowed to sit in the ethics committee hearings.

While hearings of the ethics panel are, in principle, closed, they are made public when attendees agree. The LDP said the five attendees had opted for closed-session meetings.

The first lower house ethics committee in 15 years will take place with the ruling party coming under intense scrutiny amid allegations that some factions neglected to report portions of their incomes from fundraising parties and created slush funds.

Last week, the LDP announced the attendance of two lawmakers -- Ryu Shionoya, the de facto leader of the biggest faction and Ryota Takeda, a senior member of another intraparty group. The two factions have decided to disband over the scandal.

The proposal, however, sparked a backlash from the opposition camp, which demanded the attendance of more LDP lawmakers. Later, the ruling party said three additional senior members of its largest faction will attend the lower house council sessions.

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 faction formerly headed by the late Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Around 580 million yen ($3.9 million) in total was reimbursed to 82 incumbent lawmakers belonging to two factions, including the biggest one led by Abe, during a five-year period through 2022, the party said.

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

The deliberative council on political ethics, last held in July 2009, is responsible for examining the political and moral conduct of lawmakers who face allegations of wrongdoing.

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

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