Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced on Wednesday that he will replace four ministers in his Cabinet who are embroiled in a fundraising scandal that has eroded public trust in his government.
The four ministers are: Education Minister Koichi Hagiuda, Justice Minister Takashi Yamashita, Agriculture Minister Kotaro Nogami, and Reconstruction Minister Kenya Akiba. All of them have been accused of violating political funding laws or having ties to controversial groups.
Kishida said he decided to reshuffle his Cabinet to restore confidence and focus on tackling the challenges facing Japan, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, economic recovery, and national security.
“I apologize to the people for causing confusion and trouble over the political funding issues,” Kishida said at a press conference. “I take this matter seriously and I will make every effort to prevent a recurrence.”
Kishida appointed new ministers from different factions within his ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) to balance the power dynamics and seek cooperation. He also retained key ministers, such as Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi, Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi, and Finance Minister Taro Aso.
How is the Government Handling this?
The Cabinet reshuffle comes less than three months after Kishida took office in October, following the resignation of former Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who stepped down amid low approval ratings and criticism over his handling of the pandemic.
Kishida, who won a snap election in November with a landslide victory, initially enjoyed high public support, but his popularity has declined recently due to the fundraising scandal and his controversial policy proposals, such as expanding Japan’s strike capability and promoting nuclear energy.
According to a poll by the Asahi newspaper¹, Kishida’s approval rating dropped to 38 percent in December, down from 49 percent in November. The disapproval rating rose to 40 percent, up from 28 percent.
The fundraising scandal has also sparked criticism from the opposition parties, who have demanded Kishida’s resignation and called for a thorough investigation into the matter.
“Kishida’s Cabinet has lost its legitimacy and credibility,” said Yukio Edano, the leader of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan². “He should dissolve the lower house and call for a general election as soon as possible.”
Kishida, however, dismissed the opposition’s demand and said he will continue to work on his policy agenda and prepare for the upcoming upper house election and the LDP leadership race next year.
“I have a responsibility to fulfill the mandate that I received from the people in the last election,” Kishida said. “I will not be swayed by the opposition’s criticism and I will do my best to achieve results.”