Kishida needs to improve personnel management after dismissing Terada

It is an extraordinary situation when three key Cabinet ministers resign in less than a month. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is facing a crucial moment. He must manage his administration with a sense of urgency.

Kishida has sacked Minoru Terada as internal affairs and communications minister after a series of issues involving “politics and money” came to light in connection with Terada.

Terada’s local supporting association had listed a deceased person as the accounting manager on its political fund balance reports for three years. The names of payers on 11 receipts attached to the reports were written in very similar handwritings, raising suspicions of forgery.

The fact that a Liberal Democratic Party branch headed by Terada paid rent to his wife also raised questions. Suspicions have also emerged that such people as local assembly members were paid for election campaigning for the House of Representatives election last year, and Terada said he was looking into the matter.

Terada has explained the various political fund issues as “clerical errors,” but the sloppiness of his fund management is intolerable. He is unqualified to serve as the Cabinet minister who holds jurisdiction over the Political Funds Control Law and the Public Offices Election Law, and his resignation is only natural.

The Kishida Cabinet has only recently been hit by the resignations of economic revitalization minister Daishiro Yamagiwa and Justice Minister Yasuhiro Hanashi.

“I deeply apologize for the resignation of Cabinet ministers one after another. I take my responsibility for my appointments very seriously,” the prime minister has said. But his power to hold things together is inevitably weakening.

Once again, the prime minister’s decision to remove Terada from his Cabinet post came too late. Terada was already under intense fire from the opposition camp when Kishida dismissed Hanashi for a gaffe over his duties regarding the death penalty. There were calls even within the LDP for the simultaneous resignation of both Hanashi and Terada, but the prime minister did not make a swift decision.

Both Hanashi and Terada belong to an LDP faction led by Kishida. Notably, Terada and Kishida’s constituencies are both in Hiroshima Prefecture, and until recent Cabinet reshuffle he had been heavily relied on as a special advisor to the prime minister. The prime minister may have wanted to protect a member of his inner circle.

It is standard procedure to check political funds and activities of potential Cabinet ministers before appointing them. Since the prime minister moved up his Cabinet reshuffle from its initially expected timing in September to August, it was possible that Kishida was unable to carry out adequate checks.

The delay in the prime minister’s decision to dismiss Terada has also affected the Diet, with the deliberation schedule for the second supplementary budget for fiscal 2022 having been pushed back. How does the prime minister intend to recover from his mistakes?

The lack of coordination between the Prime Minister’s Office and the LDP has been conspicuous in the current Diet session. In some cases, the prime minister changed his answers to Diet questions overnight. The prime minister needs to consider government and party systems fundamentally and reconsolidate the foundation of his administration.

In order to regain the people’s trust, it is essential for the prime minister to steadily respond to the high prices of goods and the novel coronavirus pandemic — and produce results.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov. 22, 2022)