Japan’s Kishida set to replace fourth minister in two months, to reverse ratings

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Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida plans to replace the fourth minister since October from his cabinet, in an effort to reverse falling approval rates as his government seeks to push a record budget through parliament.

Kishida would soon sack Kenya Akiba as minister for reconstruction after the cabinet member has drawn criticism for alleged inappropriate use of political funds, Kyodo News and national public broadcaster NHK said on Monday.

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Kishida has seen his approval rating fall in several leading polls to its lowest level since he took office in October 2021 as he faces a crucial juncture in his tenure. Eight of the 10 prime ministers in the two decades before him served less than a year and a half, and voters are used to a change at the top when polls indicate they’ve soured on a leader.

Though he need not face another election for more than two years, sagging approval ratings make it more difficult for Kishida to control his party and push policy pledges, including an increase in defense spending through parliament.

Last week, his government unveiled a record initial budget for the upcoming fiscal year of around $863 billion (¥114.4 trillion yen), increasing from ¥107.6 trillion in the current year. The plan set to go to parliament early next year includes a hefty increase in defense spending that would likely be funded through tax increases, which could further sour public sentiment of his government, or by adding more to Japan’s massive debt pile.

Kishida has seen his cabinet beset by scandals that have helped push his support rate lower, stoking speculation in local media such as the Sankei newspaper that he could reshuffle his cabinet early in the new year.

Former Economy Minister Daishiro Yamagiwa was pressured to resign in October over his links to the Unification Church, which has a list of court rulings against it over its fundraising methods. A series of resignation followed, with Justice Minister Yasuhiro Hanashi stepping down after quipping that he only got noticed when he signed off on executions, and Internal Affairs Minister Minoru Terada being forced to step aside over accusations of political funding irregularities.

Read more: Japan’s PM Kishida ditches minister over ‘careless’ remarks

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