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2014年4月 6日 (日)

渡辺氏の8億円 「策略」とは論点のすり替えだ

The Yomiuri Shimbun April 05, 2014
Transparency essential to determine how politicians make use of money
渡辺氏の8億円 「策略」とは論点のすり替えだ

We wonder if he is not aware of his duties as the leader of a publicly declared political party. Yes, we are talking about Your Party leader Yoshimi Watanabe, whose unyielding attitude can be taken as a sign of skirting responsibility over his borrowing of ¥800 million.

Watanabe borrowed ¥300 million just before the 2010 House of Councillors election and ¥500 million just before the 2012 House of Representatives election from the chairman of a cosmetics company. Amid growing suspicions about the purpose for which he borrowed the money, he has not been to the Diet, citing health problems, and refused to give explanations about the loans.

In a document he submitted to Your Party, Watanabe said a “power struggle” is at the crux of the matter, asserting it was a ploy by Kenji Eda, who broke with the party to form Yui no To. It is hard to understand why he is making such a claim.

His stance of distorting the essence of the problem and conveniently changing the subject is simply dishonorable.

At a press conference he held on March 27, Watanabe explained he used part of the money for conferences and travel expenses, not for funding election campaigns or political activities. “I bought a big kumade [good luck charm] at Tori no Ichi [an open-air market in Asakusa, Tokyo,]” he said.

Later, however, he changed his story slightly, saying he had spent some of it on “personal activities as a politician and Diet member.” Why was there such a change in his explanation?

The cosmetic company chairman testified that he received an e-mail from Watanabe just before the last lower house poll, explaining his party’s circumstances in the election and then asking for a loan. Watanabe has not provided sufficient explanation of this point.

If he did indeed spend the money for the elections, it constituted a violation of the Public Offices Election Law. It therefore appears that he has been repeatedly trying to talk his way out of the situation.

Calls for resignation

Katsuhiko Eguchi, the party’s supreme adviser, and several younger lawmakers are asking Watanabe to resign as party head, a move which is understandable. Your Party members are alarmed that the party cannot effectively wage a campaign in the unified local elections next spring, as things stand now.

Secretary General Keiichiro Asao and other party executives said they would conduct an in-house investigation into how the money was spent. But it is doubtful whether investigations by members of Watanabe’s own party will be able to present results that are convincing to other people.

Watanabe is the head of a political party that receives more than ¥2 billion a year in subsidies from state coffers. It is advisable for him to voluntarily appear before the lower house council on political ethics to give an explanation.

Watanabe’s case is extremely similar in nature to the violation of the Public Offices Election Law by former Tokyo Gov. Naoki Inose. Regarding ¥50 million he received from the Tokushukai medical group before the Tokyo gubernatorial race in 2012, Inose initially insisted that the money was a personal loan, rather than election funds.

He made an about-face and admitted to investigators of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office that the loan was partly for funding the campaign. Can Inose’s sin of having repeatedly deceived Tokyo residents and the metropolitan assembly be atoned for by merely paying a ¥500,000 fine?

It is disappointing that there was no court hearing to unravel the circumstances and background of the case, for prosecutors filed a summary indictment against Inose.

Political parties and politicians must earnestly address the issue of how to ensure the transparency of money in politics.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 5, 2014)


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