Dark clouds over Japan’s Prime Minister Kishida

Ztraveled to the meeting of the ASEAN countries in Phnom Penh Fumio Kishida ten days ago with a one day delay. The Japanese Prime Minister had previously had to bring about a ministerial resignation in Tokyo. Over the weekend, Kishida returned to Japan from a week of diplomacy in Asia. His first task on Sunday was to oust another minister.

Patrick Welter

Correspondent for business and politics in Japan based in Tokyo.

The head of government has lost three ministers within four weeks. In Japan this is seen as a heavy blow to confidence in Kishida. Even before that, approval for the government had fallen drastically in surveys. The political future of the prime minister, who appeared to be without a national election three “golden years” after winning the upper house election in July, is increasingly being questioned. “It is increasingly likely that Kishida will no longer be prime minister at some point in the coming year,” said Koichi Nakano, a political scientist at Sophia University in Tokyo.

Japan’s politics are facing major challenges

The unrest comes at a time when the political Tokyo gain momentum before the end of the year. The second supplementary budget of 29 trillion yen (around 200 billion euros) is to be approved in order to relieve the population and companies of rising energy and food prices. Budget plans for the coming year are pending. Defense strategy is being overhauled, which raises difficult issues of pre-emptive defensive strike capability and increased defense budgets for North Korea and China. Last but not least, Japan is at the beginning of the eighth Covid wave. In vain, Kishida swears that his government will fully devote itself to the tasks ahead. But the opposition is driving the government in parliament with questions about the resignations. There are reports of alleged financial misconduct by a fourth minister.

Superficially, the resignations have nothing to do with Kishida. Economic Revitalization Minister Daishiro Yamagiwa was forced to leave in October for being reluctant to disclose his ties to the Unification Church. Justice Minister Yasuhiro Hanashi was suggested to resign after comments he made about the death penalty were seen as insensitive and disrespectful. Interior Minister Minoru Terada, a confidant of Kishida, eventually resigned over a series of suspected irregularities in his campaign funding. Among other things, a local support group had published financial reports signed by a treasurer who had previously died. Such violations are all the more piquant for Terada because, as interior minister, he was responsible for the correct campaign financing.

Opposition: Minister dismissed too late

“I sincerely apologize for the series of cabinet member resignations,” Kishida told reporters. “I am aware of my heavy responsibility that I called her.” But the criticism goes deeper. The opposition accuses the prime minister of first wanting to keep the three ministers in office and actually dismissing them too late under public pressure.

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