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Increasing vigilance in LDP over drop in cabinet support rate

By Kodama Yoshiko and Oshima Yusuke

 

The Kishida Cabinet’s support rate has declined, and the government and Liberal Democratic Party are wracking their brains about how to respond. One of the drivers behind the drop is the scandal related to the ties between the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification (former Unification Church) and LDP Diet members. Party executives are rushing to calm the situation by saying they will fulfill their obligation to further explain the matter, but the opposition parties are ready to grill the LDP at the extraordinary Diet session to be convened next month. Although the matter has not become a situation that would force Kishida to resign, concern is spreading through the LDP.

 

“I will not oscillate between hope and despair in response to each public survey result. It is important that we produce results on actual issues and thereby fulfill our responsibility as the administration,” said Prime Minister Kishida with a stern expression on Sept. 20 to reporters at the Prime Minister’s Office [Kantei] about the precipitous drop in the cabinet support rate in the public opinion polls conducted recently by media outlets.

 

According to the nationwide public opinion poll jointly conducted by Sankei Shimbun and Fuji News Network (FNN) on Sept. 17–18, 2022, support for the Kishida Cabinet plummeted to 42.3%, down 12.0 percentage points from the previous poll taken on Aug. 20–21. This was the lowest support rating since the Kishida administration was inaugurated last October and the first time for it to drop below 50%.

 

“The reason is simple,” commented an LDP member who has formerly served in the cabinet. “[The cabinet support rate dropped because] the people think the investigation into ties with the Unification Church is rubbish.”

 

The LDP announced the findings of its probe into its Diet members’ ties with the former Unification Church and its affiliated organizations on Sept. 8. Subsequently, however, it has been newly revealed that several Diet members, including executives in the Kishida administration, have associations with the religious organization.

 

At a press conference on Sept. 20, LDP Secretary-General Motegi Toshimitsu said the party intends to release an updated list of members who have had interactions with the former Unification Church.

 

Main opposition parties plan to thoroughly grill the LDP on the Unification Church scandal at the next extraordinary Diet session, however, so it is unclear whether the release of additional information will actually bring the matter to a close. A person affiliated with the LDP said with his head in his hands, “The LDP doesn’t know what to do [to end the matter].”

 

At this point, however, there is no indication that the drop in the support rate will directly impact the prime minister’s longevity in office. The LDP’s party support rate remains high and the support rate of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDPJ), the main opposition party, continues to be sluggish. In the September Sankei-FNN poll, the LDP support rate was 36.7%, up slightly from the 35.6% found in the August poll. In contrast, support for the CDPJ declined slightly from 6.1% in August to 6.0% in September.

 

Not only are the opposition parties struggling for public support, there also is no candidate in their ranks at this point who is widely seen as someone who could replace Kishida as prime minister. Provided Kishida does not dissolve the Lower House, there are no major nationwide elections scheduled for the next three years.

 

“The situation is similar to that of the end of the administration of previous Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide (who resigned after his cabinet support rate plummeted), but Kishida is lucky [there are no elections on the horizon],” comments the previously mentioned LDP member who formerly served in the cabinet.

 

Support for the Kishida Cabinet

 

August

(%)

September

(%)

Change

(percentage points)

Sankei-FNN

54.3

42.3

– 12

Kyodo News

54.1

40.2

– 13.9

Mainichi

36

29

– 7

Nikkei

57

43

– 14

Asahi

47

41

– 6

Yomiuri

51

50

– 1

 

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