Why did you…? Restoration Executives Expelled for Reported Dark Contributions Revive “Restoration Monster”
There has been a flurry of activity in the Ishin no Kai due to the “return” of a prominent member.
The big-name member is Yutaka Imai, former secretary general. He is one of the founding members, having held key posts such as party vice-president and national political appointments.
Imai staged a slapstick performance in August of last year, when the Shukan Shincho newspaper reported a scandal involving a black-market donation and allegations of adultery, and he even revealed that he had cut his own vasectomy, before resigning. The Osaka Restoration Association took the situation very seriously and expelled Imai.
However, as of March 30, the expulsion was lifted. What exactly happened?
A member of the Japan Restoration Association reveals.
What was being heavily scrutinized was not the allegation of adultery, but the allegation of “underhanded donations” that he received a total of 1 million yen from the former mayor of Kaizuka City on three occasions and failed to record any of the money in his income and expenditure reports. He did not seem to strongly consider the allegations of adultery to be a problem, as it was a personal family matter.
After the expulsion was decided, Mr. Imai’s side said, “The expulsion is too serious. He even submitted a petition directly to the top management, including Ichiro Matsui, the secretary general, saying, “Expulsion is too heavy, and my honor is at stake. As a result of the investigation that followed, it was determined that the illegal status had been resolved by the fact that Mr. Imai had entered the donations he received in the political fund balance report, leading to the termination of the expulsion.
Mr. Imai has assured that even if the disposition is lifted, “there will be no reinstatement of the party. Still, the sudden lifting of the disciplinary action has been questioned by some in the party.
Mr. Imai made a request for the lifting of his disciplinary action last November, and after conducting an investigation into the matter, the decision was made. Most in the party are saying, ‘Why now? …… Even so, the Ishin is seen as being soft on scandals and their own people, and the withdrawal of the disposition may accelerate this public view.
It is true that Matsui-san was quite troubled because he knows this as well. The withdrawal of the disposition this time is probably due to his complete warm-heartedness toward Mr. Imai, a person who has supported the Restoration from the early days of the organization. It does not mean that he will be reinstated to the party, but it does mean that he will be ‘restored’ from the state of being punished.
Why is there such a strong reaction within the party to even the lifting of the expulsion, which is not a reinstatement? The reason is that even during the expulsion, Mr. Imai, a powerful figure in the Restoration Party, exerted influence in personnel matters and other matters.
In the supplementary election for the Osaka prefectural assembly held last October following Imai’s resignation from the assembly, Jiro Ushio, Imai’s former secretary, won the election. Newcomer Ryo Sakai, who became the new mayor of Kaizuka in this January’s mayoral election, also has close ties to Imai. A prefectural assembly member who belongs to the Osaka Restoration Association says that Mr. Imai still exerts tremendous influence in the prefectural assembly.
In the by-election for Mr. Ushio in his hometown of Kaizuka, Mr. Imai was on the spot to gather votes,” said a prefectural assembly member. The new mayor, Mr. Sakai, is also a man with the Imai seal of approval. I hear that he was also backed up in the mayoral election.
Not only in his hometown, but also in the current prefectural assembly, there are many people at the executive level, including the chairman, who are like proteges of Mr. Imai. If the expulsion is lifted, they will be able to be more publicly involved than before. Within the Restoration Association’s prefectural assembly, there are those who are divided into two groups: those who are under Mr. Imai’s influence and those who are not. Especially since many of the current top officials have been pulled up by Mr. Imai, those who are not are horrified.”
Impatience with the blatant crushing of the Restoration
Regarding Imai’s condition after his expulsion, the prefectural assembly member mentioned above continued.
He is an open person, so even after the media report, he kept inviting council members to dinner with him. I also heard that Mr. Imai had accompanied the members of the House of Representatives on their tours of Hokuriku and other regions. The current Restoration Association is in the process of rejuvenating itself, and anyway, the appointment of young executives is also conspicuous. On the other hand, some of the old-timers think the current situation is uninteresting.
However, there is no one who can openly express their opinions to Mr. Matsui and Mr. Yoshimura. In such a situation, if by any chance Mr. Imai, who can also strongly appeal to the upper echelons, decides to return to the party in the future, such a situation may change. It would mean that there are a certain number of people who want to carry Ms. Imai to protect themselves.”
Others believe that the lifting of the expulsion of Imai, who is strong in elections, was intended to have a short-term effect. A member of the Japan Restoration Association (JRA) mentioned above suggests that the lifting of the expulsion may be a consistent campaign measure.
He said, “To be honest, we would like to borrow the help of Mr. Imai, who has experience in dole elections, for this year’s House of Councilors election and next year’s nationwide elections. Since the Kishida administration came to power, the Restoration Association has clearly been given the cold shoulder, and in the Nishinomiya mayoral election at the end of March, we were completely defeated by a former candidate who received carpooling support from the Liberal Democratic Party and the Constitutional Party against a candidate from the Restoration Association. It was a blatant and unabashed effort to crush the Restoration Association.
It is probably true that this defeat heightened a sense of crisis within the Restoration Association. There are no posts in the prefectural assembly or even in the national government, so it is unlikely that Mr. Imai will be reinstated to the party, but he has the influence to create a post even if he is forced to do so. In any case, I strongly believe that this punishment is too lenient.”
The unusual decision to lift the expulsion has caused various ripples within the party. We hope that this decision, which should be called the “Restoration Monster,” will not lead to a situation in which the party will be forced to hang itself, but who knows?
Interview and text： Fumiaki Kurioka Photo： Kyodo News