Funding scandal dominates as Diet reopens

Japan's lawmakers have kicked off the first Diet session of the year in much the same way as they ended the last. A political money scandal is still dominating discussions among the ruling and opposition parties.

Multiple factions of the main ruling Liberal Democratic Party are suspected of failing to declare revenue from fundraising events. They are also accused of giving kickbacks to members who exceeded their quotas for ticket sales.

Prime Minister Kishida Fumio led one of the factions, but disbanded the group earlier this month. The LDP's largest faction, which was once headed by late Prime Minister Abe Shinzo, is also among the accused.

Speaking on Friday morning, Kishida said the public is taking a hard look at the LDP. He added that the party must now regain people's trust.

Japan's prime minister typically delivers a policy speech to kick off the 150-day Diet session. But this time, Kishida is set to speak on Tuesday, after lawmakers hold a general discussion about political funding on Monday.

Four of the LDP's six factions are disbanding in the wake of the scandal. Some lawmakers are leaving the remaining two.

The Abe faction is among those set to dissolve. Senior members including former Chief Cabinet Secretary Matsuno Hirokazu say they'll file corrections to the group's political fund reports next week.

Matsuno admits his office failed to declare about 71,000 dollars received as kickbacks from fundraisers over a five-year period.

On Friday, he said, "I sincerely apologize as an executive member of the Abe faction."

Constitutional Democratic Party President Izumi Kenta slammed Kishida and the LDP. He added that the Diet should be focused on responding to the massive earthquake that hit the Noto Peninsula on New Year's Day.

The CDP has proposed a series of funding reforms. The measures include a full ban on fundraiser events, and making politicians accountable when their treasurer has been criminally charged.