The Yomiuri Shimbun February 26, 2014
Resignation is a start, but Tokuda is still accountable for an explanation
It is only reasonable that lawmaker Takeshi Tokuda has chosen to resign from the Diet, given the seriousness of the recent scandal concerning his relatives’ alleged involvement in massive election irregularities. We feel that his decision comes too late.
On Monday, House of Representatives member Tokuda submitted a letter of resignation in connection with the scandal over violations of the Public Offices Election Law by people tied to the Tokushukai hospital group. His move comes after he left the Liberal Democratic Party in November.
Since the scandal came to light last autumn, Tokuda has been frequently absent from plenary sessions of the lower house and committee meetings of the chamber. In this respect, he should be criticized as an extremely irresponsible Diet member.
Shortly after tendering his resignation as a lawmaker, Tokuda gave a press conference in which he issued an apology for the first time in the ongoing scandal. However, he should have sought accountability when investigators first delved into suspicions surrounding individuals involved in his election campaign.
The Tokushukai group is believed to have put more than ¥200 million to use bribing election campaigners and in efforts aimed at securing Tokuda’s win in the December 2012 lower house election.
Prosecutors arrested and indicted his mother, two of his sisters and some other figures in connection with the case, though his father, Tokushukai founder Torao Tokuda, has not yet been charged due to his suffering from an intractable illness. The elder Tokuda formerly served as a lower house member as well.
The sentencing session in the trial of one of Takeshi Tokuda’s sisters is scheduled for Wednesday. During the prosecution’s probe into the case, the sister, the family’s second daughter, acknowledged her involvement in the alleged electoral irregularities.
Tokuda’s resignation comes just as he was set to be stripped of his seat on the basis of the election law’s guilt-by-association provisions. It is believed that the legislator timed his resignation announcement in consideration of the hearing of his sister’s trial.
Tokuda’s selfish hopes
During Monday’s press conference, Tokuda said, “I’d appreciate it if [the judicial authorities] acted with leniency [in passing judgment on the case].” The remark apparently reflected a desire on Tokuda’s part that his voluntary resignation from the Diet would encourage authorities to consider extenuating circumstances surrounding his relatives and other indicted figures in their sentencing decisions. We find this an extremely self-serving attitude.
The special investigation squad of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office is investigating the case of the questionable transfer of ¥50 million in cash from Tokuda to former Tokyo Gov. Naoki Inose. The focus of the probe, led by the prosecution’s special investigation squad, is whether the cash was intended to help finance Inose’s campaign for the Tokyo governorship in late 2012.
If the money was offered to Inose to fund his election campaign, he and his election staff could be accused of neglecting to write the fund into a report on income and expenditures incurred through his electoral bid.
At the press conference, Tokuda declined to comment on the purpose for which the cash was intended, despite having admitted that he and Inose discussed the gubernatorial election when they dined together. “I cannot talk [about the nature of the money],” he said.
Tokuda also declined to speak about the details of his conversation with Inose. He defended his refusal to comment, saying the scandal is under investigation. However, Inose’s acceptance of ¥50 million in cash from Tokuda is already known to the public. Given this, Tokuda, as a key figure in the case, should provide an appropriate explanation of the nature of the money transfer.
The press conference also brought to light discrepancies in the explanations given by Tokuda and Inose about the funds. When asked whether Inose had asked him for the loan, Tokuda said, “I think so.”
However, Inose has asserted that Tokuda himself made the offer to loan the money.
Once again, we want Tokuda to explain his position on issues relevant to the scandal, including the Tokushukai group’s failed attempt to buy a hospital owned by the struggling Tokyo Electric Power Co.
Tokuda’s resignation will mandate a by-election for his lower house seat in Kagoshima Constituency No. 2 in April. We hope the lessons learned from this scandal will be put into practice in how the election is conducted.
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 26, 2014)