(Bloomberg) -- Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said he would stay in his job following media allegations he was among lawmakers who concealed political funds, in a scandal that could hit already weak support for the government.
Matsuno told reporters Friday he would deal with the matter appropriately after hearing the results of an inquiry by the faction within the long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party to which he belongs. The Asahi newspaper reported he concealed ¥10 million ($69,000) in political donations over a period of several years.
The allegations against the government’s top spokesman are among the highest-profile of a slew of similar reports about lawmakers in Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s LDP failing to declare money received from factions’ fundraising events.
Matsuno added he understood from media reports a criminal complaint had been filed over the matter and repeatedly declined to provide further details to reporters or to lawmakers in a parliamentary committee.
Voter anger over the scandal looks set to worsen Kishida’s approval ratings, which are already the lowest for a Japanese premier in more than a decade in some polls. While no general election need be held until 2025, the LDP could opt to replace him when his term as party leader ends in September.
Major Japanese polls are usually released at the start of the week. A survey by the Mainichi newspaper conducted in November found support for Kishida’s government had fallen to 21%, the lowest for any administration since 2011.
Read More: Japan’s Kishida Cancels Year-End Parties on Funding Scandal
Matsuno belongs to the faction previously led by the late former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, which is the largest of five in the LDP. The group is suspected to have pooled a slush fund amounting to more than ¥100 million, Kyodo News reported. Fellow Abe faction member Yasutoshi Nishimura told parliament Friday he would carefully check his own political funding.
Kishida on Wednesday said the LDP would suspend fundraising events over the year-end and New Year period and treat the matter as a crisis. On Thursday he announced he would leave his own faction while he is in office. He told a parliamentary committee he would take further steps to tackle the scandal once the cause of the problem had been confirmed.
LDP factions expect each of their members to sell a certain number of tickets to the fundraising events. The income from any tickets sold in excess of the target is returned to the individual lawmakers. If more than ¥200,000 ($1,360) in party tickets is purchased by any one person or group, the amount must by law be registered as a donation.
--With assistance from Takashi Hirokawa.
(Updates with details throughout.)
©2023 Bloomberg L.P.
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