1,000 Days in Office: What Is Needed to Restore Confidence in Kishida Administration?

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has made certain achievements, such as strengthening Japan’s defense capabilities and expanding measures to deal with the declining birth rate, but the Kishida Cabinet’s approval rating continues to languish in the 20% range. What is the problem?

At a time when issues are piling up both domestically and internationally, stable management of the political situation is of the utmost importance. The question is whether the prime minister himself is aware of the current problems and is able to rebuild his administration.

Prime Minister Kishida reached 1,000 days in office on Saturday. He has already surpassed Ryutaro Hashimoto’s 932-day tenure to become the eighth-longest serving prime minister since the end of World War II, following Nobusuke Kishi’s 1,241 days.

Since assuming office in October 2021, the prime minister has tackled many difficult tasks.

In light of the worsening security environment, the prime minister has decided to drastically increase defense spending. Kishida has reversed the policy decision of previous cabinets, which did not allow Japan to possess the capability to attack enemy bases. Both of these decisions can be said to represent a major shift in postwar security policy.

Although his measures to combat the declining birth rate may have been biased toward financial support, such as by expanding child-rearing allowances, the prime minister’s intention in trying to overcome the national crisis can be seen.

Nevertheless, why has the Cabinet’s approval rating remained stagnant?

When it became clear that a criminal case would be pursued against the Liberal Democratic Party’s Kishida faction, which he had led for more than a decade, in connection with violations of the Political Funds Control Law involving the party, the prime minister abruptly announced the faction’s dissolution.

In the discussions of the ruling parties on the revision of the law, he left the matter to working-level officials. However, during the final stage of the talks between the leaders of the LDP and Komeito, Kishida suddenly decided to accept all of Komeito’s proposals, creating a frosty atmosphere within the LDP.

Kishida may have believed that the party and administrative bodies would naturally follow his decision because the political management system led by the Prime Minister’s Office has now been firmly established. However, if he neglects the basic principle in politics of earning understanding through persistent persuasion, things cannot go smoothly.

Some have voiced that the prime minister should shoulder some responsibility for the money and politics scandal. The LDP imposed disciplinary action only on members of the Abe and Nikai factions. Former Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga pointed out in a monthly magazine, “The prime minister should have imposed punishments on himself as well.”

In 2022, Kishida held a number of parties which were referred to as study sessions, raising a total of ¥150 million. It is clear that this was in violation of the ministerial code, which stipulates that the prime minister and other ministers should refrain from holding large parties.

The prime minister should recognize the problems with his actions and respond to them in good faith.

Another characteristic of the current political situation is the relative lack of a movement to “press Kishida to step down” even though his Cabinet’s approval rating has remained low. The lack of a prominent opposition party and the absence of a strong candidate for president within the LDP seem to be signs of the deterioration of politics.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 29, 2024)