Japan’s Government, Ruling Parties Reel from Nosedive in Kishida Administration’s Approval Rating

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida speaks to reporters on Wednesday after the end of the Diet session.

The plunge in the approval rating for Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s Cabinet in a recent Yomiuri Shimbun poll has sent shock waves through the government and the ruling coalition.

Kishida hopes to regain taxpayers’ trust by aggressively tackling issues related to My Number ID cards, which have been involved in numerous problems recently. If the turmoil is prolonged, it may affect Kishida’s strategy for dissolving the House of Representatives in autumn or later.

Liberal Democratic Party Secretary General Toshimitsu Motegi said on Sunday, “[The drop in the approval rating] was probably caused by the problems with My Number. I hope the entire government will do its best to dispel people’s apprehension.”

Natsuo Yamaguchi, the leader of the LDP’s coalition partner Komeito, also expressed concern. “The government’s responses have been a step behind,” Yamaguchi said.

Recent problems have included some people’s My Number health certificates — My Number cards linked to health insurance certificates — being wrongly linked to the personal information of other people. On Wednesday, Kishida told digital transformation minister Taro Kono to thoroughly examine by autumn all the 29 kinds of information that can be checked on Mynaportal, an online My Number card service website operated by the government.

The 29 kinds of information include taxes and income.

The government is planning to scrap health insurance certificates in autumn 2024 and replace them with My Number cards. Under the plan, the certificates will be completely abolished by the autumn of 2025.

However, concern has been expressed even among coalition party members that the move is too hasty. Kishida has stressed that the abolition of health insurance certificates should be strictly based on the premise that thorough measures have been implemented to dispel people’s apprehension.

However, easing those fears is an uphill struggle.

“Can digitalization be halted for a while now? I don’t think that would be easy,” Kono said during a speech in Shibata, Niigata Prefecture, on Sunday.

A senior LDP lawmaker said, “I can understand Mr. Kono’s desire to push through, but his stance could be seen as defiant.”

Some in the government and the coalition believe it has become difficult for Kishida to decide when to dissolve the lower house because the My Number problems are having a considerable impact on the political schedule.

The drop in the approval rating appears to have been caused by several factors. Among the survey respondents who said they don’t approve of the Cabinet, 22% chose “Kishida cannot be trusted” as the reason for their disapproval, up seven percentage points from the previous poll.

“Those people saw through [Kishida’s] avoidance of discussions on the increased tax burden that will result from measures to combat the declining birthrate and raise the defense budget,” a senior Finance Ministry official analyzed.

The poll also found many negative views on the LDP-Komeito coalition.

“After the problems in coordinating with the LDP over a candidate for a Tokyo constituency, Komeito said the trust between the two parties had collapsed. Yet Komeito is eager to maintain the coalition, and the LDP accepted that. Voters find this distasteful, saying it only benefits the parties’ interests,” a middle-ranking LDP lawmaker said.