Japan's Reconstruction Minister Kenya Akiba (center) rasies a hand to answer questions during the House of Representatives budget committee session at the Parliament in Tokyo on Nov 25, 2022. (KAZUHIRO NOGI / AFP)
TOKYO – Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida could be planning to sack his reconstruction minister over his alleged involvement in political funding scandals, sources close to the matter and local media reported Monday.
According to Japan's public broadcaster NHK and sources within Kishida's ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), Kenya Akiba could be ousted from his position by the end of the year amid mounting calls from the opposition camp for him to step down.
Calls from the opposition bloc for Kenya Akiba to resign became more vociferous during the extraordinary Diet session that ended earlier this month, following revelations he reportedly paid his state-paid secretaries for helping with his re-election campaign in the October 2021 lower house election, which would be in violation of Japan's election law
Calls from the opposition bloc for Akiba to resign became more vociferous during the extraordinary Diet session that ended earlier this month, following revelations he reportedly paid his state-paid secretaries for helping with his re-election campaign in the October 2021 lower house election, which would be in violation of Japan's election law.
Akiba has also admitted that two political groups connected to him were paid 14 million yen (about $105,000) in "rent payments" to his wife and mother, who own his office in his constituency in Sendai City, between 2011 and 2020.
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Opposition party members have said Akiba will continue to be grilled over the scandals during the ordinary Diet session set to begin next month, although LDP members have expressed concern that Akiba not being fired or stepping down will impeded the passage of key bills during the session.
When asked if he planned to fire Akiba, Kishida told reporters on Monday, "We have to thoroughly prepare for the regular Diet session next year. That is all I can say."
This is a departure from Kishida's remarks last Friday when he said, "I am not thinking about replacing some Cabinet members or considering a Cabinet reshuffle."
Akiba's possible sacking presents another headache for Kishida as the approval rating for his cabinet has been approaching the critical 30 percent level following the firing of three ministers since October for their involvement in similar funding scandals, ties to a shady religious organization and gaffes.
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Adding to Kishida's woes ahead of local elections in April, LDP lower house member Kentaro Sonoura stepped down last week over allegations of fundraising improprieties.
Meanwhile, Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Internal Affairs and Communications Mio Sugita is currently under the spotlight for making remarks against minority groups deemed discriminatory.