Apparent suicide could complicate matters for ruling coalition
Matsushita was from coalition's junior partner, the People's New party
He dies hours before he was due to testify to parliamentary committee
He faced allegations he received donations from companies awarded contracts
Japan’s financial services minister was found dead at his home on Monday in what police suspect was a suicide.
Tadahiro Matsushita, 73, who was Japan’s third Financial Services Agency minister in three years, had been in his position for just three months, following a cabinet reshuffle in June by Yoshihiko Noda, prime minister.
Matsushita’s apparent suicide could further complicate matters for a ruling coalition battered by internal divisions and parliamentary gridlock.
On Monday, Noda visited the hospital where Matsushita’s body was taken and told reporters he was “very surprised at the sad news.”
Matsushita was from the coalition’s junior partner, the People’s New party, which has filled the FSA post since the ruling Democratic party came to power in 2009.
State broadcaster NHK said Matsushita was the first cabinet minister to die in office since the suicide in May 2007 of then agriculture minister Toshikatsu Matsuoka.
The late agriculture minister died hours before he was due to testify to a parliamentary committee investigating allegations he received donations from companies awarded contracts by a government affiliate.
Matsushita had not been linked to any scandal but his death comes at a difficult time for Noda’s administration. The ruling Democratic Party of Japan has suffered multiple defections in recent months and the prime minister is being challenged by three Diet colleagues in a leadership election.
While Noda is seen as almost certain to win the vote later this month, his administration is unpopular and faces heavy pressure from opposition groups that have been using their control of the Diet’s upper house to block legislation in an effort to force an early election.
Takao Toshikawa, editor of political newsletter Insideline, said Matsushita’s death did not appear to be related to politics and was not likely to have any impact on Mr Noda’s government.
The tiny PNP has always been a very junior party to the DPJ in office and was further weakened by a split in April.
Matsushita’s death came as a shock to acquaintances who said he had been unwell but could think of no reason for him to commit suicide.
“He was a very passionate person who would pursue matters single-mindedly,” said Yuji Katagiri, a former member of the PNP who worked with Matsushita.
Matsushita’s tenure at the FSA coincided with the culmination of a widespread insider trading investigation, which led to fines against several financial institutions and the mass resignation of top executives at Nomura, including its chief executive officer.
The minister was also responsible for overseeing Japan Post, the partially privatized postal services group, which includes the nation’s largest bank and largest insurance company.