Anti-Kishida Sentiment Smoldering in Ruling Parties; Lower House Dissolution Timing Grows More Uncertain

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is seen at the Prime Minister’s Office on Thursday.

With intensifying headwinds against the government and the Liberal Democratic Party, some within the ruling parties have begun to say that it will be difficult to hold the next House of Representatives election under Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.

Natsuo Yamaguchi, head of the LDP’s junior coalition partner Komeito, visited the Prime Minister’s Office on Thursday and exchanged opinions with Kishida on how to reform politics in response to the latest political funds scandal.

“It’ll become possible [to decide] whether we should seek the approval of voters only after the process of making efforts to restore public trust,” Yamaguchi told reporters after the meeting, indicating that it will be difficult to dissolve the lower house for a snap election for the time being.

After the prime minister said at a press conference on Wednesday that he would act as a “fireball” to reform politics, a mid-ranking member of the LDP’s Abe faction sarcastically remarked, “The prime minister’s situation is [more like] a man in flames, or a car on fire.”

However, no moves have been seen within the LDP to unseat Kishida as prime minister. This is because there is still some time left to put off the dissolution of the lower house, as the terms of current lower house members are to expire at the end of October 2025.

Former LDP Secretary General Shigeru Ishiba said on Monday that it would be possible for the prime minister to resign after the fiscal 2024 budget is passed at the ordinary Diet session next year. But his comment provoked criticism, with some calling it tantamount to shooting from behind amid the party’s crisis, and it failed to gain much support amid the current situation.

But the spring of next year, when the fiscal 2024 budget is to be passed, will certainly present an opportunity to pause and regroup, as Ishiba pointed out. The next LDP leadership election is to be held in September next year, when Kishida’s term expires. To ensure his reelection, it will be necessary for Kishida to get his approval rating onto a recovery track by spring and build an environment to enable his party to win a lower house election before the party leadership race.

Kishida apparently intends to restore his popularity by paving the way towards overcoming deflation through wage hikes at the spring labor offensive, as well as making an official visit to the United States. However, it remains uncertain whether things will proceed as he hopes.

If his approval rating continues to remain low even after spring, there may be growing calls within the LDP for the prime minister to step down so a new face can be chosen for the lower house election in the party leadership race.