Japan’s reconstruction minister resigns over campaign funding scandal

Tokyo, Dec 27 (EFE).- Japan’s reconstruction minister Kenya Akiba resigned on Tuesday and was officially relieved of his post by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in another blow to his cabinet, where now four ministers have been forced to quit within two months due to various scandals.

Akiba, who took charge in August, has been mired in allegations of violating electoral law and embezzling public funds.

According to local media outlets, the leader is accused of having paid around 200,000 yen ($1,500) to his secretaries for helping him during the elections for the lower house in 2021.

The minister also admitted that two political groups close to him had paid around 14 million yen in office rent to his wife and mother between 2011 and 2020, an income which his mother had failed to declare.

Lastly, Akiba – who had earlier denied having any links with the controversial Unification Church – acknowledged that a branch of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party headed by him had donated around 48,000 yen to this Church.

The Church has been in the spotlight in Japan since the murder of former prime minister Shinzo Abe last summer, as the man who shot him dead claimed to have done it in retaliation for the Japanese government’s concessions to the religious group.

Kishida has named Hiromichi Watanabe, who will be sworn in on Tuesday itself, as Akiba’s successor. Watanabe has already served as the reconstruction minister between 2018 and 2019.

The ministerial portfolio is in charge of reconstruction and assistance for the areas affected by 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

Separately, the deputy minister of internal affairs and communication also submitted her resignation on Tuesday after being criticized for several recent comments and actions against the LGBT community.

Despite leading his party to victory in the parliamentary elections in July, Kishida’s popularity has plummeted after Abe’s murder revealed links between the LDP and the Unification Church.

On Oct. 24, the minister of economic revitalization, Daishiro Yamagiwa, had to resign after being widely criticized for his links with the Church, also known as the “Moon Sect.”

Later, on Nov. 11 Kishida dismissed his justice minister Yasuhiro Hanashi for comments seen as frivolous, over his duties and the death penalty, as well as the internal affairs minister at the time, Minoru Terada, who had come under fire for irregularities in election funding. EFE


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