Sunday Project, the Old Faithful of political talk shows, produced the Diet affairs committee chairmen from each of the parties*. Most of the talk revolved around the botched attempt at summoning Finance Minister Fukushirō Nukaga to testify under oath. The DPJ chairman gave the following reasons for giving up:
1) Takemasa Moriya, the disgraced MOD ex-Administrative Vice-Minister**, was arrested, making a joint appearance of the two in front of the Upper House Financial Affairs Committee impossible. The DPJ Chairman strongly and repeatedly suggested that the arrest was a plot to avoid the summons.
2) The Japan Communist Party changed its mind***, the People’s New Party also insisted on unanimity, and the DPJ wanted to avoid the public impression that it was conducting a one-party vendetta.****
All the opposition parties claimed that they still wanted the two to testify once Mr. Moriya got out, though short of corroborating evidence, it was hard to see how they would be able to justify this inconsequential “poking at the corners of the multi-tiered meal box” at the tax payers’ expense. It appeared that they intended to blame the second blow-off on the LDP and New Kōmeitō.
The Communist Party chairman managed to throw in some fresh meat by way of allegations of mass corruption, which it hoped to verify by going after Naoki Akiyama, the obscure but reputedly powerful executive director of the Japan-U.S. Center for Peace and Cultural Exchange*****, an institution that brings together on its board of directors many defense tribe Diet members, mainly LDP, but also a couple of independents (thrown out of the LDP for playing Post Office), and one each from the New Kōmeitō, the DPJ, and the People’s New Party. The Communist Party chairman raised allegations in the Asahi and Yomiuri of a 60 million yen slush fund transfer****** from Yamada Yōkō’s U.S. subsidiary******* to the U.S.-Japan Center. The DPJ chairman bravely criticized the Center, but curtly dismissed any prospects for summoning Mr. Akiyama for questioning, given presumed LDP intransigence. He also stated his view that the fix was in and that this whole affair would end with Mr. Moriya and Mr. Moriya only taking a fall********.
I’m not yet sure what to make of all this; all I can say is that the shakaibu(society********* section) reporters are still giving the politics section reporters a good run for the money, which I think means that the public prosecutors are feeding this constituency of theirs. However, I still don’t see a convincing reason to change my call on the refueling bill and its aftereffects, given the DPJ’s apparent reluctance to go after the angle taken up by the Communist Party.
* New Party Nippon was missing, but it only has one Diet seat (in the Upper House) and has formed an official party group jointly with the DPJ and one other nano-party. The individual chairmen’s names have been omitted on this blog because they are irrelevant.
** Allow me to take note of the unintended pun in “vice-minister”.
*** Party HQ reminded its field officers that the Communist Party had been on the short end of this stick before.
**** The Social Democrats, now reduced to near-micro party status, are not represented on the Financial Affairs Committee; and the New Party Nippon is a one-seat nano-party that is part of an official Upper House party grouping.
***** The information on the website is almost exclusively in Japanese only. My guess is that the web site is there mainly to satisfy disclosure requirements as a recipient of public funds.
****** 100 million according to the Yomiuri. The Asahi report, which has 40 million going to Mr. Miyazaki, the ex-Yamada Yōkō executive who broke off in a business dispute to set up Nihon Mirise, appears to be more reliable.
******* This allegation brings the case under the reach of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, without prejudice to the ultimate outcome. According to the Yomiuri report, Mr. Akiyama denied receiving such funds.
******** At this point, the oldest host of a Japanese news show Sōichirō Tawara was not seen to put his chin in his hands, smile winsomely and say, “Do tell”.
********* No, not that kind of “society”.