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Japan Lawmakers Set No-Confidence Vote 03/01 06:54

   

   TOKYO (AP) -- Outraged Japanese opposition lawmakers submitted a 
no-confidence motion on Friday, accusing the governing party of trying to push 
through a budget bill without adequate debate because of disruptions caused by 
a scandal over its fund-raising practices.

   Opposition politicians slammed Prime Minister Fumio Kishida for failing to 
provide details about slush funds created by members of the governing Liberal 
Democratic Party's leading faction, or where the money went. Kishida apologized 
for the scandal, which has rocked his government, on Thursday in a rare 
appearance before the parliamentary ethics committee that was broadcast live.

   Kishida, who also proposed reforms of the Political Funds Control Law, 
apparently attended the session in an effort to end debate on the scandal and 
secure the swift passage of a 112 trillion yen ($744 billion) budget bill that 
has been repeatedly stalled.

   Opposition lawmakers were outraged Friday when budget committee chair 
Itsunori Onodera, a governing party member, scheduled a vote later in the day 
on the budget bill. They submitted the no-confidence motion against Onodera, 
accusing him of attempting to push through the bill without sufficient debate 
on the budget. The no-confidence motion was rejected because of the governing 
party's majority in Parliament.

   Kishida has fought plummeting support ratings since the corruption scandal 
emerged. He has removed a number of Cabinet ministers and others from party 
executive posts, but support ratings for his government have dwindled to around 
20%.

   The scandal centers on unreported political funds raised through tickets 
sold for party events. It led to 10 people -- lawmakers and their aides -- 
being indicted in January.

   More than 80 governing party lawmakers, most of them belonging to a major 
party faction previously led by assassinated former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, 
have acknowledged not reporting funds in a possible violation of the Political 
Funds Control Law. The money received from the long-term practice is alleged to 
have gone into unmonitored slush funds.

   Earlier Friday, two prominent Abe-faction members -- former trade and 
economy minister Yasutoshi Nishimura and former chief Cabinet secretary 
Hirokazu Matsuno -- appeared before the ethics committee and denied personally 
running the slush funds.

   Nishimura and Matsuno said Abe proposed ending the practice in 2022, citing 
the lack of transparency and risk of causing public distrust. They said the 
practice somehow resumed after Abe's death but they did not know why.

   Matsuno accepted about 10 million yen ($66,500) in unreported funds from the 
faction over the past five years, which he has since reported. He has 
acknowledged that his aides accepted the cash and it was kept in a safe in his 
office. He said the money was only spent for political activities.

   Deliberations on the no-confidence motion held up Friday afternoon's ethics 
hearing, where two more Abe-faction lawmakers were to appear.

   The governing ethics committee, controlled by the governing party, is tasked 
with determining whether lawmakers violated political ethics and should be held 
responsible, but critics say it's largely for show and expect little serious 
investigation.

 
 
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