Japan PM Kishida’s disapproval rate hit record as political scandals drag on

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The disapproval rate of Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida hit a record in a poll, as voters showed dissatisfaction with what many see as shortcomings in clearing up political scandals months ahead of a party leadership election.

In a survey by the Mainichi newspaper posted online on Monday, some 82 percent of respondents said they disapproved of Kishida’s cabinet, up 10 percentage points on the previous month and the worst for any premier since the paper started conducting such polls in 1947. His approval fell seven percentage points to 14 percent.

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Kishida’s support also slipped to 21 percent in a separate poll by the Asahi newspaper and stayed flat at 24 percent in a survey by the Yomiuri.

The polls come ahead of a September election for leadership of the long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party, which could see Kishida ousted in favor of a more popular candidate. No general election need be held until 2025.

A slush fund scandal that led to a series of arrests and indictments prompted Kishida to disband his faction within the party and press other groups to distance themselves from money as well as fighting over top positions. His efforts to tackle the problem of undeclared income, which has cast a shadow over many of the LDP’s most senior lawmakers, are seen as inadequate by most voters, polls show.

More than three quarters of respondents to the Yomiuri newspa-per poll said they didn’t think steps taken so far, such as a survey of party lawmakers, would lead to transparency over what had happened. More than 90 percent said they didn’t think the leaders of the party factions had provided sufficient explanations of the scandal.

Perceptions that Kishida has failed to clamp down hard enough come as the economy unexpectedly slipped into recession, a development that could further undermine public support.

An earlier scandal over the LDP’s connections with a fringe South Korean-based religious group has also reemerged recently. Opposition lawmakers are calling on the education minister to resign over alleged dealings with the sect, which has a long list of court rulings against it over taking excessive donations from followers.

Nonetheless, opposition parties have been unable to capitalize on Kishida’s woes, with none of them boasting support of more than single figures in recent polls.

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