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Japan lower house passes political funds reform bill

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japan's House of Representatives on Thursday cleared a bill proposed by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party to reform rules on political party funds, ending weeks of fraught interparty negotiations for Prime Minister Fumio Kishida as a fundraising scandal continues to damage his popularity.

The revised political funds control law is expected to be enacted during the ongoing parliamentary session through June 23, as Kishida attempts to regain public trust due to the scandal having badly eroded support for his LDP and potentially loosened the party's grip on power with an election on the horizon.

As the bill proposed by the LDP is so far lacking in detail, opposition lawmakers have lambasted it for containing many loopholes and have cast doubt on whether it will strengthen transparency concerning the use of political funds.

The envisioned changes to the rules will impede The LDP's fundraising abilities, with Kishida facing criticism within the party for conceding too much to its junior coalition partner the Komeito party in an attempt to salvage his plummeting Cabinet approval ratings.

Public support for Kishida, who is seeking reelection in the LDP's presidential race around September, has hit its lowest level since his Cabinet was launched in October 2021, causing speculation that he has given up on dissolving the lower house for a snap election in the near future.

Late last month, Komeito, whose slogan is "clean politics," rejected the LDP's original proposals to amend the law. The LDP was then forced to submit its own bill to the Diet, but Kishida later reached an agreement on a revised version with Komeito.

The conservative LDP does not hold a majority in the House of Councillors. Komeito, backed by Japan's