Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party on Tuesday compiled draft proposals on political funds reform in the wake of a recent slush money scandal, centering on forfeiting deliberately unreported income for submission to the national coffers.

The LDP, led by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, also proposed obliging lawmakers to issue certificates when submitting their political funds reports and that neglecting to sufficiently check the documents could result in punishments, according to the reform plan.

Photo taken on Jan. 19, 2024, shows the Liberal Democratic Party headquarters in Tokyo. (Kyodo)

The ruling party is expected to exchange views on the proposals with the Komeito party, its junior coalition partner, on Wednesday before starting parliamentary deliberations to amend the political funds control law later this week.

But the plan is set to vigorously challenged by opposition parties, which have been seeking drastic reforms and have unveiled their own proposals. They have been criticizing the LDP for significantly undermining public trust in politics.

The LDP has come under intense scrutiny since some of its factions were found to have neglected to fully report revenue from fundraising parties for years, with hundreds of millions of yen passed back to members who had sold tickets to the events.

In an internal probe showed that about 80 LDP members failed to declare a total of around 580 million yen ($3.7 million) in revenue in their political funds reports over the five years through 2022. Among them, the party disciplined 39 individuals.

The LDP, however, excluded its leader Kishida, despite a former accountant of the faction that he previously headed having been issued a summary indictment over the slush funds scandal.

As approval ratings for Kishida's Cabinet have plunged amid the scandal to their lowest levels since it was launched in October 2021, he has pledged to revise the political funds control law by the end of the current Diet session through June.

Kishida has said the LDP will prioritize three areas in the reform -- strengthening punishments for lawmakers whose aides violate the law, implementing rigorous oversight of political funds through third-party monitoring and introducing digital tools to enhance transparency.

The LDP has been criticized for its reluctance to review the monthly payments of 1 million yen each for research, study, and public relations activities by lawmakers, who are not required to report how this money is spent.

During a parliamentary session on Monday, Kishida said he had instructed LDP lawmakers to proceed with discussions about how to improve the system with other political parties and reach a conclusion on the matter as soon as possible.

Ryu Shionoya holds a press conference in Tokyo on April 23, 2024, after submitting a resignation letter to the ruling Liberal Democratic Party. (Kyodo)

Meanwhile, Ryu Shionoya, chairman of the LDP's largest faction formerly led by the late Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the center of the scandal, left the party on Tuesday after it advised him to do so earlier this month as punishment.

Shionoya, who has claimed he is not aware of when and how the slush funds scheme began, had filed a request for a review of the second toughest out of the eight penalties available to the party following expulsion, but the LDP leadership dismissed it last week.

If he did not voluntarily leave the LDP within 10 days, the 74-year-old House of Representatives member would have been expelled from the party.




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