Tokyo: Kishida reshuffles cabinet because of declining support

The prime minister urged ministers to review their ties with the Unification Church after the attack on Shinzo Abe. The new cabinet is designed to balance the various factions within the Liberal Democratic Party. Approval rating drops to around 50 per cent, the lowest point recorded by the current administration.

Tokyo (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced a cabinet overhaul at a press conference today, hoping to boost the sagging fortunes of  his government.

Mr Kishida said the cabinet revamp was necessary to meet “the biggest challenges of the postwar era”, most notably the COVID-19 pandemic, Sino-US tensions over Taiwan, and inflation.

The new lineup comes at a time when public scrutiny has intensified over relations between the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and the Unification Church (UC), following the assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe by an attacker whose mother was a member of the religious group.

Recently, Kishida asked members of the cabinet and top LDC officials to review their relations with the controversial religious group.

Although about 80 per cent of the population said they were dissatisfied with the explanations given by politicians regarding their connections with the Church, some cabinet members still have links with the religious organisation founded by South Korean Rev Sun Myung Moon.

Instead of trying to cut ties with the powerful sect, the move suggests instead that the prime minister is trying to find a balance between the various factions within the party.

The reshuffle coincides with a sharp decline in support for the government. In a poll conducted at the end of July, its approval rating had dropped to 51 per cent from 63 per cent only a few weeks ago. This is the lowest point since Kishida took office 10 months ago.

The new cabinet includes Yasukazu Hamada, a former defence minister between 2008 and 2009, who is replacing Nobuo Kishi, Shinzo Abe's younger brother, after he publicly admitted that he had received the support of the Unification Church in previous elections.

Former Economic Revitalisation Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura will serve as Industry Minister, taking over from Koichi Hagiuda, who will head the LDP’s policy research council.

Both are part of the party’s more conservative wing, which Kishida needs in order to strengthen his position.