As the repercussions surrounding the suspicion of slush fund creation by executives of the Abe faction, the largest faction of Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party, are growing, the blame is being placed on Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. Prime Minister Kishida’s approval rating fell to its lowest point since his inauguration, and even Abe faction figures, who were known to be candidates for dismissal, protested. The main opposition party, the Constitutional Democratic Party, attempted to shake up Prime Minister Kishida by submitting a resolution of no confidence in Chief Cabinet Secretary Abe, the second-in-command in the government, to the National Assembly.
According to a public opinion poll released by Japan’s Sankei Shimbun and private broadcaster Fuji TV on the 11th, when asked about Prime Minister Kishida’s responsibility for the suspicion of creating a slush fund, 87.7% responded with a combination of ‘a lot’ and ‘a little’. Nearly 9 out of 10 people believed that Prime Minister Kishida, the party president, was responsible.
The Kishida cabinet’s approval rating was 22.5%, down about 5 percentage points from a Sankei-Fuji TV poll last month, hitting an all-time low. There is even talk in the Japanese political world that the results of opinion polls from major media outlets to be released one after another this week could show an approval rating in the 10% range.
Prime Minister Kishida, who was in a political predicament, ordered all 15 ministers and vice ministers of the Abe faction, including Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno (松野博一), who was suspected of pocketing more than 10 million yen (approximately 90 million won) in slush funds while he was secretary-general of the party. It is reported that a plan to dismiss him is being considered this week. On this day, Prime Minister Kishida hinted at a cabinet reshuffle, saying, “We will respond appropriately at the appropriate time” regarding personnel matters, including the dismissal of Abe faction members who are in charge of the cabinet and party executives.
However, not many believe that Prime Minister Kishida, who comes from a small faction and has a weak foundation within the party, will calm the confusion in the party and public anxiety with a greeting card. Immediately, Abe faction members expressed dissatisfaction with Prime Minister Kishida’s policy of dismissal. At a press conference that day, Minister Matsuno actually showed opposition to the Prime Minister’s personnel policy, saying, “I want to fulfill the position given to me.” Also, in Japan, there is a strong perception that Prime Minister Kishida cannot be free from criticism of factional politics within the party, as he served as the chairman of the Kishida faction until he stepped down voluntarily last week.
There are predictions that Prime Minister Kishida, who does not have a high approval rating from the public, will find it difficult to maintain power if the Abe faction rebels in a situation where other factions do not take his side. There are already setbacks in the promotion of major policies, such as the decision to postpone for the time being a tax increase that was planned to be implemented in order to secure significantly increased defense spending in next year’s budget. Prime Minister Kishida’s term ends in September next year, but under the cabinet responsibility system, he can step down at any time if the regime’s foundation weakens.
Mark Jones is a world traveler and journalist for News Rebeat. With a curious mind and a love of adventure, Mark brings a unique perspective to the latest global events and provides in-depth and thought-provoking coverage of the world at large.