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Japan’s ruling LDP punishes 39 members over political funds scandal, urges 2 to quit party

But opposition lawmakers say the party’s probe has failed to fully bring to light the facts surrounding the slush funds and are set to demand further scrutiny, while the punishment may also draw a backlash from LDP members who feel it is unfair, political pundits said.

Former education minister Ryu Shionoya, the de facto leader of the Abe faction, and Hiroshige Seko, former LDP secretary general in the House of Councillors who is also a high-ranking member of the Abe faction, were advised to leave the party, the second-severest penalty among the party’s eight levels of punitive steps following expulsion.

In response to the decision by the ethics panel, Seko told reporters he offered to leave the party.

Separately, Shionoya criticised a decision not to punish Kishida, saying it would only be “fair” to give the prime minister the same treatment.

Among other senior Abe faction members, former trade minister Yasutoshi Nishimura and former LDP policy chief Hakubun Shimomura were punished by having their party memberships suspended for one year.

At a news conference after the committee meeting, LDP Secretary General Toshimitsu Motegi said that the party took more severe steps against the Abe faction executives in light of their roles, calling their political responsibility “extremely heavy”.

Tsuyoshi Takagi, who served as secretary general of the Abe faction and LDP Diet affairs chief, was penalised with a half-year party membership suspension.

Hirokazu Matsuno and Koichi Hagiuda, both of whom were also key Abe faction members, and Ryota Takeda, a senior member of another intraparty group headed by Toshihiro Nikai, were suspended from party positions for a year.

The list of LDP members subject to the penalties excluded Nikai, who has