On November 23, Japanese media reported that Abe and his support club may have used about 8 million yen of political funds to fill the deficit in the cost of the “cherry appreciation meeting”. Subsequently, “Arrest of Abe” and other related topics rushed to Japan’s hot search.
On December 3, the Special Search Department of the Tokyo District Prosecutor’s Office basically decided to file a case against Abe’s first secretary of public security on suspicion of violating the Law on Political Funds Regulation, and asked Abe himself to voluntarily be questioned.
Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been involved in the “cherry blossom appreciation party” for more than a year on suspicion of misappropriation of public funds and inviting voters to the banquet.
How did the “cherry blossom appreciation meeting” become the “tool of canvassing votes” for Japanese politicians? Why is there a constant disturbance?
Can Japanese prosecutors really convict Abe?
Article | Zhou Yongsheng Professor, Institute of International Relations, School of Foreign Affairs
The “cherry blossom appreciation party” has changed its taste.
“Cherry Blossom Appreciation Meeting” is a flower appreciation activity organized by the Japanese government. The government invites royal and former members of the royal family, foreign envoys, the presidents and members of the Senate and the House of Representatives, ministers, international friendly people, elites from all walks of life in Japan and other people with outstanding social contributions to enjoy the cherry blossoms with the Prime Minister to recognize and express condolences for their contributions to Japan’s development at the expense of the Japanese government. Load.
Since the “cherry blossom appreciation” in Shinjuku Miyuan, Tokyo in 1952, the “cherry blossom appreciation meeting” in Japan has a history of nearly 70 years. During Abe’s tenure as Prime Minister of Japan, he also held a “cherry blossom appreciation party” in accordance with the usual practice.
However, in fact, the “cherry blossom appreciation party” of Abe’s government has changed – celebrities and sage are no longer the exclusive favorites of “cherry blossom appreciation”.
Since 2013, the attendance and expenditure of the Abe government’s “cherry appreciation party” have increased significantly.
Nearly a thousand of the people who participate in the “Cherry Blossom Appreciation Meeting” every year are supporters of Abe Support Club. They may not have made much contribution to Japanese society, but they are Abe’s “fan” voters. In other words, the “cherry blossom appreciation meeting” hosted and held by Abe is to raise its own voters with taxpayers’ taxes and the state’s financial funds.
From 2013 to 2019, Abe’s government will hold a large-scale banquet, the night before the Cherry Blossom Appreciation Party, the Eve Festival. The Eve Festival was hosted by Abe Support Association, whose representative was the first secretary of the Abe government at that time.
According to Japanese media reports, more than 800 Abe election supporters participated in the 2018 “Evener Eve Festival” dinner, and more than 700 people participated in 2019. The average meal fee of the eve festival is at least 11,000 yen per person, and the invited person only needs to pay 5,000 yen per person, and the remaining expenses are borne by the support association.
The opposition party of Japan accused Abe of using government funds to cultivate his own voter power in clear violation of Japan’s Public Election Law and the Political Fund Regulation Law.
The Law on Election of Public Offices stipulates that officials are prohibited from providing valuable items to voters in any form.
In 2014, a former Minister of Justice was forced to resign simply for distributing fans with his own image to voters. However, Abe’s government directly invited supporters of the support group to the banquet.
The Law on the Regulation of Political Funds stipulates that the income and expenditure of the political funds of the National Support Association for Public Offices must be clearly accounted for and recorded, and cannot be transferred to voters.
In April 2010, his former secretary Keiji Katsuba was sentenced to two years in prison for violating the Political Fund Regulation Law for false records of about 400 million yen (1 US dollars or about 92 yen) in the political fund report of then Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama.
According to the investigation of the Special Search Department of the Tokyo Land Prosecutor’s Office, the expenditure of Abe’s “cherry blossom appreciation meeting” is huge, and the budget provided by the government cannot be met, and Abe Support Association provides a large amount of funds. However, Abe Support did not record this huge difference.
Controversy: Privatization of Power and Taxation
Since November last year, Abe’s “cherry blossom appreciation” has been in the aftermath. The key is the Japanese opposition party, public opinion and the public’s doubts about Abe’s abuse of public power.
Before Abe, although the scale of the Japanese government’s “cherry blossom appreciation meeting” was expanding, it was generally in a state of control.
Since November last year, Abe’s “cherry appreciation meeting” has been in the aftermath.
In the early 1950s, the “cherry blossom appreciation party” was attended by only about 4,000 people; in the mid-1980s, Prime Minister Zengne expanded to about 7,000 to 8,000; in the new century, Koizumi grew to 11,000 in the later period of power. However, when Yukio Hatoyama took office in 2010, the scale of the “cherry blossom appreciation party” returned to about 10,000 people, and the cost was about 10 million yen.
In 2013, Abe held the “cherry blossom appreciation party” for the first time after his second administration, with only about 12,000 people attending and spending about 17.18 million yen. However, since then, the attendance and spending of the “cherry blossom appreciation” of Abe’s government have increased significantly. From 2014 to 2019, the expenditure of the “cherry appreciation party” increased from 30 million yen to 55 million yen , and the number of participants increased from 14,000 to about 18,000.
Japan’s opposition parties, public opinion and the public generally question:
Is it necessary to increase the number of people and budget in such a large-scale “cherry appreciation meeting”?
Has such a party become a means for the Prime Minister to personally network and expand his power?
In fact, the Japanese media have disclosed that in the 2019 “cherry blossom appreciation party”, there were 1,000 participants recommended by Mrs. Abe alone. This obviously involves the private use of public weapons, and the personal color is strong.
With the large expansion of the “cherry appreciation meeting”, the Abe government is also suspected of violating the law in the use of funds.
From 2014 to 2019, the total cost of Abe’s government’s “front eve festival” dinner exceeded 23 million yen, but the total ticket cost received was only about 15 million yen. In response, Tokyo prosecutors believe that Abe’s government and its support association may have filled the difference of 8 million yen in some way, which is suspected of violating the Public Office Election Law and the Political Fund Regulation Law and is a “suffrage” crime.
Previously, Abe Support Association had admitted that they had used a total of 9.16 million yen to cover the funding deficit of the “Cherry Blossom Appreciation Association” in five years.
In the summer of 2019, various non-governmental legal figures of the Japanese opposition party investigated the matter and accused the Abe government of private use of public weapons. Therefore, the Japanese government cancelled the “cherry blossom appreciation meeting” originally scheduled for April 2020. In December of the same year, some people in Japan also protested in front of the Prime Minister’s residence, accusing the invitees of public and private, and holding plastic cards that said, “It’s to invite friends to enjoy cherry blossoms with blood tax” and other plastic cards to criticize Abe’s government’s behavior.
Tetsuro Fukuyama, Secretary-General of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, believes that this is purely Abe’s use of taxes to entertain his support club. Yuichiro Tamaki, a representative of the National Democratic Party, also said that Abe’s move was “privatizing power and taxes”.
The matter is not over. Entering September 2020, the opposition party will continue to hold Abe accountable with the help of Congress, the media and other channels. Public opinion continued to ferment, and by November, it reached a new climax. Relevant Japanese legal figures and social groups demanded the prosecution of Abe. At present, the special search department of the Tokyo Local Prosecutor’s Office, which is responsible for the investigation of corruption cases of politicians, has put the matter on file for investigation.
How difficult is it to convict Abe?
During Abe’s rule, why didn’t the Tokyo Prosecutor’s Office’s Special Search Department conduct a comprehensive investigation into the government’s “cherry blossom appreciation meeting” case?
Because according to Japanese law, the Minister of State is suspected of criminal cases and must obtain the permission of the Prime Minister before a criminal investigation can be carried out. That is to say, during Abe’s tenure as Prime Minister, Japanese prosecutors did not have the power to conduct a criminal investigation into Abe himself as long as he did not get Abe’s consent.
Therefore, Japanese prosecutors can only wait until Abe leaves the position of prime minister before taking action.
So, now that Abe has resigned as Prime Minister, can the Japanese prosecution thoroughly investigate the case, collect evidence, and successfully prosecute or convict Abe?
I’m afraid the truth is not that optimistic.
Regarding the prosecution of Japanese legal people and opposition parties for the “cherry blossom appreciation meeting”, Abe himself basically adopted a evasive or non-recognition attitude.
Abe said he would seriously cooperate with the prosecution’s investigation activities. At present, his response to this question mainly includes: he did not personally participate in the invitation of the “cherry appreciation party”; he was not aware of the misappropriation of political funds and the replenishment of the “front night festival” funds by the support association, while denying that his support association had previously misappropriated funds to supplement the “cherry appreciation” activities.
In response, Abe’s support association also claimed that “Abe did not know”, and the support association did not report to Abe about the use of funds for the “cherry appreciation meeting” and the “front night festival”.
Based on the above-mentioned statements of the parties involved in the case, we can conclude that if the Japanese prosecution does not obtain clear evidence in the investigation that Abe knows the case, personally participates in the arrangement of the “cherry appreciation meeting” personnel and place his own voters in it, it cannot conclude that Abe’s direct contact with the criminal law is violated.
As a result, only the leading organization of Abe Support Society may be criminally prosecuted. At most, Abe himself committed the mistake of arranging the support staff to be negligent, which is a matter of leadership and leadership methods and does not involve criminal offences.
In Japan’s past criminal suspects involving senior leaders, senior leaders have also rarely been directly punished by law, and in most cases their secretaries, assistants or subordinates are responsible for crimes. Some of them were dismissed from office, some were deprived of public office, in serious cases, criminal punishments were imposed on fixed-term imprisonment, and even committed suicide to take responsibility for their superiors.
Therefore, Abe himself is likely to successfully escape the blame. The case of “cherry blossom appreciation” will not bring him damage to the degree of injury. The end is likely that subordinates have taken the place of Abe, and it is difficult for the bosses hiding behind the political secrets of gold power to make them take real legal responsibility.
However, there is no doubt that such a political scandal has put Abe on the moral bench and greatly reduced his personal reputation as a politician.
The sequels are endless. What is the root cause?
The reason why Abe’s “cherry appreciation party” has been fermenting for a long time and the sequel is mainly due to the following five reasons:
First, during Abe’s tenure as Prime Minister, he broke the practice of “cherry blossom appreciation”, greatly expanded the scale of activities, increased capital investment, and brought in voters who supported his support club, which indeed showed many clues of selfish fraud.
At present, all kinds of evidence point to Abe, which is very disadvantageous to him. This is undoubtedly a good opportunity for the Japanese domestic opposition to seize the control and hammer of Abe and even the LDP forces. As long as it is further investigated, it is possible to dig out strong evidence to prove that Abe is illegal, and at least take the opportunity to prove the illegal facts of Abe Support Association.
Second, the Japanese people generally dislike gold power politics.
Financial power politics not only harms the people’s right to know, but also politicians, bureaucrats, politicians and businessmen seize personal interests through the exchange of money and power, which harms the interests of the general public and social groups.
The Japanese people who hate the politics of gold power naturally hope to find out the case, so they constantly call on the media and society to continue to hold accountable and seek justice.
Third, although Japan is a country under the rule of law and society under the rule of law, there are endless behind-the-scenes transaction scandals among politicians, officials and the financial circles. This leads to a general distrust of politicians, officials and the media, and once there are clues, they will reluctantly seek the truth of things.
Fourth, the Liberal Democratic Party of Japan is dominant by one party, and the opposition party has been suppressed for a long time, and it is difficult to get a chance to turn around.
They tried their best to find the ruling leaks of the LDP Prime Minister and his ministers. Once they found the obvious defects of their opponents, they pursued and pursued them to the end, in order to undermine the prestige of the Liberal Democratic Party, improve the status and reputation of the party, and even strive for the possibility of their own governance.
The reason why Abe’s “cherry blossom appreciation” disturbances have not been smooth again and again is largely the result of the opposition party’s pursuit. In order to gather more strength, the Japanese Constitutional Democratic Party, the Communist Party and other opposition parties almost bridged their differences and joined hands to “block” Abe. The high attention of public opinion also has the shadow of opposition party exerting influence to some extent.
Fifth, in the view of the Japanese opposition party, attacking Abe is not only its own political opponent, the Liberal Democratic Party, but also the current Kan Yoshihiro government. Because Yoshihiro Kan’s government not only comes from Abe’s Zen concessions and support, Yoshihiro Kan himself directly participated in the preparation of the “cherry blossom appreciation meeting” of Abe’s government.
In addition, in the view of the opposition party, Kan Yiwei’s government will certainly shield and cover Abe and try its best to help him out of trouble. Therefore, it is more necessary to investigate Abe’s “cherry blossom appreciation” case in depth in order to carry out a chain attack on Abe himself and his cabinet.
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