Corporate milch-cows take hard look at LDP: Donors' dilemma as Japanese ruling party faces stern poll test

MONEY doesn't talk in Japanese politics. It shouts, very loud and very far. At election time in particular, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) is like a huge shuddering cash register, spewing out money to campaigners, party hacks and hangers-on across the country.

At the last general election in 1990, the LDP is estimated to have indulged in a spending orgy that came close to pounds 250m.

Most of the money comes from Japanese corporations but they now face a dilemma: should they continue to pump billions of yen into the LDP, which they have bankrolled for 40 years, knowing that this time it might lose the coming election?

A surprisingly public argument has broken out among the leaders of industry over political funding.

Gaishi Hiraiwa, who heads the Keidanren, the Federation of Economic Organisations, which is Japan's single most powerful business lobby, has said they will continue to fund the LDP as before. Last year Keidanren members gave the party 13bn yen ( pounds 78m).

But other groupings of executives, of employers' associations and regional business chambers have disagreed, arguing that their funding should be split between the governing and opposition parties.

'The LDP and also parties with similar policies will be receiving support from the business community,' said Osamu Uno, head of the Kansai Economic Federation, based in Osaka, central Japan. It is noteworthy that the issue is merely how political donations should be shared out: there is no suggestion that business should scale back the amount it spends on politicians, even in the current climate of 'political reform'.

The LDP's credit-rating has declined with banks, which last week refused to lend the party the Y20bn it asked for to fund its campaigning.

The banks fear that if the LDP loses the election, it will not receive the usual amount of corporate donations it has used in the past to pay back loans. Instead, a consortium of 10 of the nation's top banks will probably authorise a loan of Y15bn.

The LDP's chances of holding on to the parliamentary majority it has enjoyed since 1955 looked even slimmer yesterday as five opposition parties reached an agreement to co-operate in the elections in an anti-LDP bloc. The coalition was organised by Tsutomu Hata, the former finance minister who led the revolt against the Prime Minister, Kiichi Miyazawa, in parliament 10 days ago.

Mr Hata has since set up the Shinsei, or New Life party, and yesterday he was joined by the Socialists, the Komei party and two smaller opposition parties eager to end the LDP's monopoly on power. The ruling party knows it is fighting for its life. With no new policies or ideas to attract voters, it is resorting to the kind of politics it knows best: kinken seiji, or money politics, which has served it so well in the past.

Yesterday in Tokyo's municipal elections, the LDP added two seats to the 42 it held in the city's 128-member assembly, but the Kyodo news agency said its performance indicated the party was heading for a serious setback in the general election on 18 July.

The fund-raising dinners have already got under way. On Thursday members of the LDP's second-largest faction, led by Hiroshi Mitsuzuka, held a party in a Tokyo hotel for 2,000 guests, with tickets at Y30,000 a head.

The LDP is not alone in rushing to raise money: even Mr Hata's Shinsei party is out looking for funds. Coincidentally, the Shinsei party was holding a fund-raiser in a hotel across the road from Mr Mitsuzuka on Thursday: tickets were Y20,000 a head, and some 900 people turned up.

Mr Hata had been asked earlier in the week whether he would not turn away from the money politics that he had criticised in his old party. 'Frankly speaking, because we still have to fight in the system we ultimately want to abolish, each of us has to struggle for financing,' he answered, ever the realist.

News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
News
i100

Other places that have held independence referendums
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
news

Sport
footballThe latest scores and Twitter updates from tonight’s games, featuring Bayern Munich vs Man City and Chelsea vs Schalke
News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
newsThe 'extremely dangerous' attempt to avoid being impounded has been heavily criticised
News
peopleThe Times of India said actress should treat it as a 'compliment'
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur
film

It scooped up an unprecedented 11 Academy Awards when it was first remade in 1959

News
news

Watch this commuter wage a one-man war against the Circle Line
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
lifeShould we feel guilty about keeping cats inside?
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

Arts and Entertainment
Toby Jones (left) and Mackenzie Crook in BBC4’s new comedy The Detectorists
tvMackenzie Crook's 'Detectorists' makes the hobby look 'dysfunctional', they say
Arts and Entertainment
Maxine Peake plays Hamlet at Manchester's Royal Exchange
theatreReview: Maxine Peake brings emotional ferocity to Shakespeare's starring part
Extras
10 best table lamps
indybest
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Project Manager (technical, applications, infrastructure)

£55000 - £60000 Per Annum + benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: IT Proj...

English Teacher (Bristol and South Gloucestershire)

Negotiable: Randstad Education Bristol: English teachers for day to day cover,...

Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Sheffield: Year 6 Teacher RequiredThis teaching...

SharePoint Administrator - Bishop's Stortford / Stansted

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: SharePoint Administrator - Bishop's ...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week