Kishida touts diplomatic success as election comes into view

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida delivers a speech at a House of Representatives plenary session Wednesday.

Buoyed by a flurry of high-profile meetings with international leaders, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is hoping his recent accomplishments in the diplomatic field will translate into success in the upcoming House of Councillors election.

Opposition parties will intensify their attacks in the coming weeks, but they are struggling to take the wind out of the sails of Kishida’s administration, which is basking in steadily high public approval ratings.

Kishida emphasized Wednesday the results of his meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden on Monday and Tuesday’s summit meeting of leaders from the Quad nations – Australia, India and the United States. During an address to the House of Councillors plenary session, Kishida said it was “extremely significant that the leaders strongly conveyed from Tokyo to the world that these nations reaffirmed their resolve to uphold and develop a free and open international order based on the rule of law.”

Opposition parties also have applauded the outcomes of these meetings. A close aide to Kishida said, “We were able to bolster the prime minister’s image of being savvy in diplomatic matters.”

Kishida is now preparing to turn these diplomatic successes into tailwinds that will propel deliberations on a draft fiscal 2022 supplementary budget and boost his party’s performance in the upper house election. Official campaigning for this election is expected to start on June 22.

Kishida has established a reputation for remaining unflustered when responding to questions in the Diet. Even so, he arrived at the Prime Minister’s Office before 7 a.m. Wednesday to meticulously prepare for that day’s questions. “Opposition parties will step up their offensive as they keep an eye on the upper house election,” a senior Liberal Democratic Party official said.

Opposition parties consider deliberations on the draft supplementary budget a chance to grab the spotlight ahead of the election. Kazuhiko Shigetoku, a House of Representatives member from the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, blasted the about ¥2.7 trillion draft supplementary budget. “It’s too late, too small and contains nothing of substance,” Shigetoku said during an address as a representative of his party. “I’ve never seen such an embarrassing budget.”

Ryuna Kanemura, a lower house member from Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Innovation Party), took a swipe at the “new form of capitalism” Kishida has touted. “Most of it is a rehash of conventional policies. What is the point of the prime minister blowing his own trumpet on this?” Kanemura said.

Deliberations moved Thursday to a question-and-answer format in the lower house Budget Committee.

Public approval of Kishida’s Cabinet remains solid in surveys by various media outlets. In a nationwide opinion poll conducted by The Yomiuri Shimbun from May 13 to 15, 63% of respondents said they supported the Cabinet. During question time Wednesday, opposition parties attempted to hound the government on issues including its responsibility for overseeing the operator of a tour boat that sank last month off the Shiretoko Peninsula, Hokkaido. However, the opposition parties failed to land any telling blows.