Editorial: LDP's responsibility for money scandal involving legislator questioned
House of Representatives member Takaya Muto has left the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) over a money scandal. The scandal has raised questions as for what purposes he became a legislator.
It is still fresh in people's memory that Muto, 36, came under fire for criticizing a group of students and other youths as "selfish" after they urged the public to participate in demonstrations against security bills. He just cannot draw a curtain on his own problem simply by leaving the LDP. The party's responsibility for endorsing him in elections is also serious.
According to the Shukan Bunshun weekly magazine, Muto recommended last year that acquaintances and others buy pre-listed shares of a software company, telling them that they could buy shares specially set aside for Diet members. He then collected approximately 40 million yen from 23 people as funds to buy shares. However, shares of the company were never purchased for these people, and some investors have not got back the money they paid. Some have pointed to the possibility that Muto communicated with others over share transactions, using a communication application, while he was attending a session of the lower chamber's Committee on Foreign Affairs.
It is necessary to conduct a further probe to get to the bottom of the scandal because those involved have made conflicting statements.
The latest scandal involving pre-listed shares apparently has reminded numerous members of the general public of the Recruit stock-for-favors scandal that came to light in 1988 and rocked the political world. In the Recruit case, pre-listed shares of a company, whose prices were certain to rise significantly after the stock was listed, were donated to prominent figures in the political and business worlds as well as bureaucrats, and a few of those involved were convicted of giving and accepting bribes.
In the latest case, it remains unclear whether some shares of the software company were actually set aside for legislators. Still, it is common sense for politicians not to be involved in transactions in pre-listed shares. It is only natural that some legislators from opposition parties are demanding that Muto step down as a lawmaker.
In 2007, Muto reportedly joined the policy staff for an alliance of political parties within the Shiga Prefectural Assembly and individual assembly members that backed then Shiga Gov. Yukiko Kada, who was calling for suspension of dam construction projects. However, Muto did an about-face, and applied to run for the lower house on the ticket of the LDP that was critical of Gov. Kada after the party publicly sought candidates. He is currently in his second term as a member of the lower chamber. One cannot help but wonder how the LDP has evaluated and officially endorsed Muto, who appears to lack qualifications as a representative of the people, judging from his policies.
Muto was also present at a study session in June among junior LDP legislators supporting Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, in which some attendees called for pressure on the news media. Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Taro Aso, leader of an LDP intraparty faction of which Muto was a member, has been quoted as warning Muto to "express your personal views after the security bills are passed into law" over Muto's criticism of the youth group opposing the proposed legislation. This suggests that Aso viewed the timing of Muto's remarks, and not their content, as a problem.
The LDP's responsibility for the money scandal and other scandals involving Muto is grave and the party's half-baked response is also inappropriate. Nevertheless, LDP Secretary-General Sadakazu Tanigaki and other top-ranking members of the governing party failed to question Muto in person over the details of the latest case. After Muto notified the party leadership that he would leave the party, Tanigaki said, "The legislator needs to fulfill his accountability," as if to regard the money scandal as someone else's problem, and not a problem involving the party.
The LDP also has accountability for the money scandal.
毎日新聞 2015年08月21日 東京朝刊