TOKYO, April 4 –– Japan’s ruling party said today it will discipline 39 lawmakers over a major kickback scandal linked to political fundraising parties.

At the heart of the saga are alleged payments to members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) for exceeding ticket sales quotas for the fundraising events.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida vowed in February to discontinue the events after two LDP lawmakers were charged with breaking political funding laws and three of the party’s biggest factions were dissolved.

“As head of the party, I sincerely apologise for raising doubts from the public and causing serious political mistrust,” Kishida told reporters today.

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The LDP said it had urged two lawmakers caught up in the scandal—a former education minister and a party executive—to leave the party, the second-harshest penalty it imposes.

Two other lawmakers will lose party membership for a year, it said, and others will be suspended from party posts for up to a year or receive a reprimand.

Poll ratings for Kishida’s government are at among the lowest levels since the party returned to power in 2012.

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In January, the LDP’s largest faction, once headed by ex-premier Shinzo Abe who was assassinated in 2022, said it would dissolve.

The two lawmakers facing charges had been part of the grouping.

Two other major factions, including one that Kishida himself had headed, also said they would disband in the wake of the dustup.

Factions have long been crucial to the inner workings of the LDP, with prime ministers distributing top positions with the politics of these groupings in mind. –– AFP