Communists Release Photo of Prime Minister With Alleged Racketeer
TOKYO (AP) _ Armed with photographs that show Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu shaking hands with an alleged racketeer, an opposition member of Parliament is taking aim at the ″Mister Clean″ of Japanese politics.
Communist Party lawmaker Hidekatsu Yoshii released the photos of Kaifu and Sango Miharu after lambasting Kaifu at a parliamentary committee meeting Tuesday.
A spokesman for Kaifu told reporters the prime minister had not intentionally done anything wrong, and did not know of Miharu’s alleged association with racketeering when the photo was taken.
The spokesman said Kaifu agreed to have the picture taken because Miharu claimed he was a philanthropist.
But Yoshii’s secretary, Haruo Yoshinaga, said Yoshii intends to press the issue until Kaifu offers a full explanation.
″This man is a well-known racketeer, and it is wrong for politicians to associate with such people,″ he said. ″We will follow this up when the Parliament convenes again.″
The timing of Yoshii’s attack was clearly aimed at weakening Kaifu, whose current term as head of the Liberal Democratic Party - and thus prime minister - expires at the end of this month.
But it was not clear how much the photos would damage his nearly spotless image and popularity with voters, who have been deluged with reports of political and financial scandals in recent months.
Japan’s three largest newspapers ran the story, two with the pictures, in their Wednesday morning editions, but none gave it particularly prominent play.
Kaifu, who is expected to seek re-election, was chosen to lead the party in 1989 mainly because a stock and influence-peddling scandal tainted most of the party’s stronger members.
Since assuming office, he has been a leading advocate of political reform, although his package of electoral reform and political fund control proposals was scrapped in Parliament on Monday.
A Kyodo News Service poll released Wednesday showed Kaifu with a 56.7 percent support rating last month, just below the record 57.1 percent he received in August.
Yoshinaga said the slightly blurred photo of Kaifu and Miharu shaking hands was dated February 1986, when Kaifu was education minister. He said it had been displayed at a shrine in Ibaragi prefecture, just northeast of Tokyo.
Yoshinaga said the names of Kaifu and Miharu also were found carved into a stone memorial along a path at the shrine. The Communist Party distributed photos of the memorial to the press.
A National Police Agency official told Parliament Tuesday that Kaifu’s name has not come up in any police investigations into the activities of ″sokaiya,″ or corporate racketeers.
Sokaiya, who often pose as analysts or consultants, are known to extort money from companies by threatening to disrupt shareholders’ meetings.