Yohei Kono, Former Lower House Speaker, Objected to Companies Making Political Contributions

Former House of Representatives speaker, Yohei Kono, has urged the elimination of corporate political donations, based on records of interviews conducted between 2019 and 2022, which were made public by the lower house of the parliament on Wednesday. Kono, who was the president of the opposition Liberal Democratic Party at the time, along with then Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa, had agreed on implementing political reforms in January 1994, including a shift to single-seat constituencies and proportional representation, while also calling for an end to corporate political donations.

During the series of interviews conducted by the Lower House on 31 occasions from October 2019 to June 2022, Kono emphasized that the crucial components of political reform were the introduction of single-seat districts and the abolishment of corporate political donations. However, he expressed doubt about the efficacy of proportional representation, stating his belief that it was a failure and it served to save those defeated in single-seat constituencies without truly considering minority opinions.

Kono also voiced his frustration with the existing rules that still permit corporate donations to political party chapters. According to Kono, corporate donations should be entirely abandoned, especially when public subsidies are furnished to political parties. Moreover, he affirmed that a statement he issued as chief cabinet secretary in 1993, acknowledging the involvement of the now-defunct Imperial Japanese Army in the issue of “comfort women” and extending Japan’s “sincere apologies and remorse,” was indeed an official document. Though the statement was not adopted by the cabinet, he clarified that it was unveiled at a chief cabinet secretary’s press conference and reflected the cabinet’s intention.

Kono’s call for the abolition of corporate political donations highlights the ongoing debate surrounding political funding in Japan. The issue of corporate contributions that effectively influence policy decisions has been a contentious one, and Kono’s stance adds to the growing momentum for reform in this area. As an influential figure with extensive political experience, his views on the matter carry considerable weight and are likely to spark further discussions on the need for transparency and accountability in political financing.

In his interviews, Kono’s insistence on reinforcing the reforms agreed upon in 1994, particularly the elimination of corporate political donations, demonstrates his unwavering commitment to addressing the systemic issues within Japan’s political landscape. His critique of the existing proportional representation system and the persistence of corporate donations underscores the need for comprehensive reforms that prioritize the interests of the public over the influence of special interest groups.

Kono’s bold statements and steadfast advocacy for political reform are a testament to his dedication to upholding democratic principles and fostering a more equitable and transparent political environment in Japan. As the public and policymakers continue to grapple with the challenges of campaign financing, Kono’s perspective serves as a timely reminder of the imperative to safeguard the integrity of the political process and ensure that the voices of the people are heard and heeded.


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