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Ambiguous agreement between Japan’s ruling parties leaves room for maneuver; PLD aims to create a divide within the opposition bloc during negotiations

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Liberal Democratic Party Secretary General Toshimitsu Motegi, right, and Komeito Secretary General Keiichi Ishii, left, sign an agreement in the Diet on Thursday on the parties’ proposals for revising the law on control of political funds.

The ink is barely dry on the ruling coalition parties’ agreement on proposals to revise the law on the control of political funds, but the ambiguities and lack of detail raise questions about how the agreement will hold up in upcoming negotiations with opposition parties.

The Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito signed the agreement on Thursday. The LDP essentially agreed to Komeito’s demands, but its insistence on leaving room for negotiation in discussions with opposition parties resulted in disagreements over some revisions.

With opposition parties poised to intensify their attacks on the LDP’s lack of willingness to implement reforms, upcoming discussions between the ruling and opposition parties are likely to be difficult.

LDP Secretary General Toshimitsu Motegi seemed relieved that the ruling parties had reached an agreement.

“There were differences of opinion on some parts, but we have filled most of the gaps. This can be greatly appreciated,” Motegi said at a news conference at party headquarters on Thursday after talks with his Komeito counterpart, Keiichi Ishii.

Discussions on revisions to the political funds law will be a major topic in the second half of the current Diet session, following revelations that several factions of the LDP have been regularly violating the law for years. The PLD will not be able to avoid an avalanche of criticism during these discussions. Crafting this proposal with Komeito was an urgent task for the LDP, which sought to galvanize the unity of coalition partners before confronting opposition parties.

Komeito had also pressured the LDP to boldly address the issue of political funds to dispel widespread public distrust of politics.

“This agreement will be the first step towards restoring trust,” Ishii told reporters after his meeting with Motegi.

From the beginning, the ruling parties only indicated a general policy direction on issues on which they did not fully agree and relegated the search for consensus to the background.

The two sides failed to reach a compromise on how far to lower the threshold at which the names of ticket buyers for fundraising evenings would be disclosed. The agreement did not contain any mention of a specific amount in this regard.

Another sticking point was the disclosure of the use of funds for political activity expenses provided by parties to individual legislators. The PLD insisted that such spending should be made public only by category when received by lawmakers. Some feared that political activities would be disrupted by disclosing details that Diet members preferred to keep secret, such as providing funds to fellow lawmakers under the name Midsummer Greetings.

Ultimately, the LDP agreed to Komeito’s proposal that all party lawmakers who receive the funds submit statements showing how the money was spent. However, the LDP had reservations about publishing detailed information on its use, so the finer points of this issue remain to be worked out.

Voice of discontent

The PLD was in a dilemma regarding these reforms of political funds. Although the party feared that its public support would evaporate unless it demonstrated a willingness to implement reforms, there was also a deep fear that making too many concessions during negotiations with Komeito could forcing the party to make additional compromises with opposition parties during negotiations, which have not yet reached their full potential.

“If we had agreed on details consistent with Komeito’s proposals, this would have become the starting point for negotiations with opposition parties,” a former minister told the Yomiuri Shimbun. “The demands put forward by the opposition parties would further intensify. »

Komeito also stuck to his tough approach. Some party members were even willing to part ways with the LDP on this issue, since giving up easy concessions to the LDP might give the impression that Komeito was timid about these reforms.

“If the LDP does not compromise, we should present our own demands in negotiations involving the ruling and opposition parties,” said a participant in a meeting of Komeito leaders.

Some LDP members were frustrated that the ruling parties’ proposal was “incomplete.” A mid-ranking LDP member lamented: “The public will have had enough and wonder what we did. »

Ishin holds the key

Once the ruling parties’ proposal is signed, the stage will now shift to discussions between the ruling parties and the opposition. Much will depend on the approach taken by the opposition Nippon Ishin (Japan Innovation Party).

Top LDP leaders met with Ishin regime business chief Takashi Endo at the Diet on Thursday in a bid to curry favor.

“We would like to have a serious discussion with you regarding the revisions to the law,” an LDP participant told Endo.

The LDP apparently aims to bring Ishin into the fold to create a divide within the opposition bloc and push forward reforms based on the proposal drawn up by the ruling parties.