Two former close aides to Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama were charged yesterday over falsified political funding records, Japanese media said, a development that threatens to erode support for the government.
The scandal, which has been public knowledge for months, is thought unlikely to force Hatoyama to resign, but the indictments will be another headache for a government that marked 100 days in office yesterday and faces key decisions on next year’s budget and relocating a US airbase.
A sharp slide in voter approval could endanger the prime minister’s grip on his post ahead of an upper house election in the middle of next year, in which his Democratic Party wants to win an outright majority to reduce the clout of two tiny but vocal coalition partners.
Opinion polls have shown voters are unhappy with Hatoyama’s explanation of the misreported donations, but a majority have said he need not resign over the affair.
There is no suspicion of bribery because the funds, amounting to more than ¥300 million (US$3.28 million), were funneled from Hatoyama’s own family fortune, media reports say. The prime minister has said he will pay any taxes that may be due on cash received from his mother.
“Since it is not a corruption case, how Prime Minister Hatoyama handles this incident will be a key test as doubts grow over his leadership, decision-making ability and crisis management skills,” said Tsuneo Watanabe a senior research fellow at the Tokyo Foundation.
Jiji news agency said one aide was charged and fined ¥300,000 in a summary procedure, while another was indicted at home. Tokyo prosecutors said they could not confirm the report.
The legal proceedings are thought unlikely to cause a quick, sharp drop in Hatoyama’s voter support, which has fallen below 50 percent in some polls from initial highs of more than 70 percent, as doubts grow over his leadership skills.
Jiji news agency said prosecutors decided not to charge Hatoyama himself, but analysts say the indictments are a blow for the prime minister at a vulnerable time.
“The [opposition] Liberal Democratic Party is too weak to force him to resign ... and I don’t think Hatoyama will voluntarily step down either,” said Kyohei Morita, chief economist at Barclays Capital Japan.
He said he expected limited impact on financial markets, “but it may worsen voter support ahead of the upper house election.”
Hatoyama said earlier in the day he would explain more about the funding scandal once prosecutors make decisions. He has repeatedly denied knowing anything about the misreporting.
“The problems will come in parliament next year, when he will be attacked by the Liberal Democratic Party over this,” political commentator Harumi Arima said. “The question is whether he can stand up to that.”
Also See: Okinawa tensions unlikely to add to much
Henry Tong (湯偉雄) and Elaine To (杜依蘭) were preparing to spend their first wedding anniversary in separate prison cells until their acquittal for rioting during Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests. There were gasps and tears of relief in court on Friday last week as a judge declared prosecutors had failed to prove that the couple took part in clashes with police in July last year. The pair walked free in a ruling that has potential consequences for hundreds of other protesters facing similar charges. However, they have a long journey ahead as they try to rebuild their lives and business. “We have already been punished,”
WARNINGS OVER COMPLACENCY: The curves of new infections in numerous countries is climbing, while others see the the first new infections in months Spikes in COVID-19 infections in Asia have dispelled any notion that the region might be over the worst, with Australia and India yesterday reporting record daily infections, Vietnam fretting over a new surge and North Korea urging vigilance. Asian nations had largely prided themselves on rapidly containing initial outbreaks after the coronavirus emerged in central China late last year, but flare-ups this month have shown the danger of complacency. “We’ve got to be careful not to slip into some idea that there’s some golden immunity that Australia has in relation to this virus,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters. Australia recorded its
The Australian government yesterday said that it plans to give Google and Facebook three months to negotiate with media businesses fair pay for news content. In releasing a draft of a mandatory code of conduct, Canberra aims to succeed where other nations have failed in making tech firms pay for news siphoned from commercial media companies. Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said that Google and Facebook would be the first platforms targeted by the proposed legislation, but others could follow. “It’s about a fair go for Australian news media businesses, it’s about ensuring that we have increased competition, increased consumer protection and a sustainable
BEIJING REACTS: China announced that Hong Kong’s extradition treaties with Canada, Australia and Britain would be suspended after those nations acted earlier New Zealand yesterday announced that it would suspend its extradition treaty with Hong Kong. The move came after China passed sweeping new security legislation for the territory. New Zealand is the final member of the “Five Eyes” intelligence-sharing alliance to take such action after the Australia, Britain, Canada and the US previously announced similar measures. New Zealand Minister of Foreign Affairs Winston Peters said that the new legislation goes against commitments China made to the international community. “New Zealand can no longer trust that Hong Kong’s criminal justice system is sufficiently independent from China,” Peters said. Moreover, Wellington would treat military and technology exports to