Ruling party defeated in by-elections, with support for Kishida plummeting

The Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan swept three byelections yesterday. The ruling party even failed its seat in Shimane Prefecture, a conservative stronghold. Scandals over irregular fundraising but also the depreciation of the yen weighed heavily on voters’ minds.

Tokyo (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s Liberal Democratic Party o(LDP) lost three by-elections for the House of Representatives yesterday.

The defeat highlights the loss of public support for the ruling party following a series of scandals involving several former ministers and lawmakers.

The Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDPJ), led by Kenta Izumi, took all three seats.

The LDP, which did not field any candidates in the Tokyo and Nagasaki constituencies, focused on defending the seat in the western Prefecture of Shimane, known to be a conservative stronghold.

Despite two visits last month by Prime Minister Kishida to support the LDP candidate, Norimasa Nishikori, Akiko Kamei took the seat for the CDPJ.

Speaking after her victory, Kamei said the results in Shimane, a “conservative kingdom”, sends a "big message" to Kishida, who has been criticised for failing to prevent the yen's depreciation and achieve wage growth higher than rising prices.

A poll by Kyodo News found that 77 per cent of respondents voted "in consideration” of the scandal over irregularly raised funds within the LDP, which led to the resignation of several ministers and party executives over the past few months.

In November last year, an investigation by the Japanese prosecutor's office revealed that some LDP members from the Abe current failed to declare at least 500 million yen (about US$ 3.2 million) raised through party fundraising, which they kept for themselves.

Meanwhile, Kishida's approval rating has fallen below 30 per cent, a threshold analysts consider a “danger level” to the government.

The LDP’s heavy defeat in Shimane is likely to weaken Prime Minister Kishida’s hold on the party and prod some members to oust him before the next general election.

For his part, LDP Secretary General Toshimitsu Motegi said, "We will humbly accept the results" in Sunday's by-elections, noting that the party "needs to work as one to grapple with the challenge."