LDP considering punishing 4 former executives of party's largest faction

Executive members of Japan's main ruling Liberal Democratic Party will likely decide next week how to punish lawmakers involved in a fund-raising scandal.

Party sources say they are considering heavy punitive measures against the four former senior members of the party's largest faction.

They reportedly plan to make the decision before Prime Minister Kishida Fumio's planned visit to the United States in April.

Prior to making the decision, Kishida, who also serves as LDP president, plans to question the former executive members of the faction once led by former Prime Minister Abe Shinzo on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Kishida plans to individually meet former education minister Shionoya Ryu, former LDP policy chief Shimomura Hakubun, former economy minister Nishimura Yasutoshi and former LDP Upper House Secretary-General Seko Hiroshige. Party Secretary-General Motegi Toshimitsu and General Council Chairperson Moriyama Hiroshi will also be present at the meetings.

Their faction decided to drop the practice of cash kickbacks following then faction chief Abe's proposal to do so in April 2022.

But the practice actually continued after Shionoya, who then served as the faction's acting chairman, discussed with the three others how to deal with kickbacks in August that year.

LDP executive members are considering non-endorsement in an election, which is the fourth heaviest punishment under party rules. They reportedly believe the four should be held responsible for not dropping the practice of kickbacks.

The secretary general of Japan's largest opposition Constitutional Democratic Party, Okada Katsuya, said they deserve the party recommendation to resign as lawmakers, rather than non-endorsement in an election.

Opposition members are set to question Kishida about the progress of party discussions over the matter at an Upper House Budget Committee session on Monday. They also plan to seek the summoning of former senior members of the faction once led by Abe to the Diet to give sworn testimonies.

Meanwhile, former LDP Secretary-General Nikai Toshihiro has conveyed his intention to his aides not to run in the next Lower House election. He is expected to make the announcement as early as Monday.

Nikai's secretary has been convicted over his faction's fund-raising scandal. The faction has decided to disband itself.