LDP's Nikai not to run in next Lower House election

Nikai Toshihiro, a former secretary-general of Japan's main ruling Liberal Democratic Party, has decided not to run in the next Lower House election.

Nikai, 85, told reporters on Monday that he made the decision to clarify his political responsibility over a fundraising scandal involving LDP factions. He said he had conveyed the decision to Prime Minister Kishida Fumio over the phone in the morning.

He said, "I'd like to offer my deepest apologies to the public and my supporters in the local constituency for having caused political distrust."

He went on to say, "My faction's treasurer and my secretary have received criminal punishment, but all the political responsibilities lie on me as their supervisor."

Nikai said he will let the LDP's prefectural chapter decide whether he should retire from politics and choose his successor.

As for the remaining tenure as a Diet member, he said he is committed to building national resilience and making preparations for the 2025 World Expo in Osaka City.

Asked whether his decision was influenced by party executives' plans to punish lawmakers involved in the political funds scandal, he denied it and said, "It's my own decision."

When asked whether he intends to leave the party, Nikai did not reply. But Hayashi Motoo, Nikai's aide and former economy minister who was present at the media conference, denied it.

As to whether Nikai plans to attend the political ethics panel, Hayashi said Nikai had already made clear how unlisted funds had been spent. He said former internal affairs minister Takeda Ryota, who was also the secretary general of the faction, attended the panel for Nikai and explained everything about the funds.

Nikai has been elected to the Lower House 13 times since 1983.

Nikai held such posts as economy minister and party General Council chairperson. He became the longest-serving LDP secretary-general, holding the post for more than five years from 2016.

In connection with a fund-raising scandal involving LDP factions, Nikai's secretary was indicted on charges of violating the political funds control law and convicted in February.

Nikai reported to an LDP survey that he had failed to register 35.26 million yen, or about 233,000 dollars, in revenues from ticket sales of his faction's fundraising parties in political funds reports in five years through 2022.

The Nikai faction decided to disband in January.