Unification Church issue continues to trouble Japan’s ruling party

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Liberal Democratic Party General Secretary Toshimitsu Motegi speaks at a news conference in Tokyo on Thursday.

Even after the ruling Liberal Democratic Party released the results of a survey of its lawmakers on Thursday about their ties to the religious group known as the Unification Church, unrest within the party has not continued. not diminished.

Party headquarters have set out a policy to bolster a system to advise its lawmakers to cut ties with the group, officially called the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification. But some voices are concerned about the effectiveness of this policy. A major question is whether it can be fully implemented by members of the prefectural and municipal party assemblies.

“I wrote everything I could understand,” said Daishiro Yamagiwa, minister in charge of economic recovery. “At the time, I was unaware that it was a problematic band, and I honestly regret that.”

Yamagiwa, who has spoken at meetings and conferences of an organization affiliated with the Unification Church, reiterated this explanation during a press conference on Friday.

According to survey results released Thursday, 179 members of the LDP regime, nearly half of the party’s lawmakers, have ties to the group. The names of 121 lawmakers have been made public, and those members continued to be pressed for explanations on Friday.

Hiroaki Saito, a member of the House of Representatives, who asked for the group’s support for the 2021 lower house election, explicitly said, “At that time, I thought the group had no problem, but I will no longer have any connection with him.

A mid-career LDP lawmaker said his office had been inundated with calls and emails containing complaints.

“A local supporter enthusiastically invited me to attend a meeting of the affiliated organization,” the lawmaker said, looking exhausted. “It’s a big blow for me”

The LDP plans to set up a task force at party headquarters for the implementation of party reform led by party general secretary Toshimitsu Motegi. The task force should establish a system in which party members can check issues such as whether an organization’s meeting is appropriate for a legislator.

However, there are negative opinions within the party on such a system. “Can I ask my followers about their religious affiliations or decline their request by saying, ‘This religion is not good’?” said a senior party official. “I can not do that.”

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who is also chairman of the PLD, said he would ask members of the local assembly to “ensure that they abide by the policy of having no relationship” with the group. However, according to a party official, there are more than 10,000 LDP or LDP-affiliated local assembly members across the country, and it is unclear whether party headquarters politics will be able to accommodate them. fully achieve.

Motegi said that while local assembly members cannot follow the party’s policy of cutting ties with the Unification Church, such members “are not allowed to engage in political activities with the party “.

But a senior party official said: “Freedom of religion is guaranteed in the Constitution. We cannot force a member to leave the party for religious reasons.

“The party must present clear reasons for severing ties [with the Unification Church]said former LDP general secretary Shigeru Ishiba, who received donations from the affiliated organization. “With unified local elections next spring, if the party says it won’t endorse or recommend followers, the party will run into constitutional problems.”

The government and ruling parties plan to consider remedies for victims and preventive measures for so-called “spiritual sales” and other tactics used by the Unification Church. “We will do everything possible to restore confidence in politics and avoid the damage [from spiritual sales]LDP Research Council Chairman Koichi Hagiuda said Thursday. Hagiuda himself was found to have connections to the group, including having attended a Unification Church meeting.

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