Support rate for Kishida cabinet hits new low at 20% following fund scandal

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida (Mainichi)

TOKYO (Kyodo) — Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s government approval rating fell 4.4 percentage points to a new low of 20.1 percent, a Kyodo News survey showed Sunday. with a political funds scandal rocking his ruling liberal-democrat party.

The poll also shows that 91.4% think that the LDP deputies involved in the financial scandal did not fulfill their responsibilities, even though five of them, including Kishida, attended a session of the parliamentary committee on political ethics for two days starting February 29.

Kishida’s LDP has come under scrutiny following allegations that some of its factions, such as the largest formerly led by the late Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, neglected to declare some of their income from fundraisers and allegedly created slush funds for years.

The five LDP lawmakers were criticized for failing to provide adequate explanations during televised House Ethics Committee hearings on why slush funds were generated and how they were used.

Prosecutors have so far charged or issued summary indictments against 10 individuals from three factions, but the groups’ leaders have not faced criminal charges due to lack of evidence. The three factions decided to disband following the scandal.

The LDP’s support rate fell to 24.5 percent, its lowest level since December 2012, when the party won a landslide general election victory to return to power, while disapproval rate for Kishida’s government increased to 64.4 percent, according to the survey. watch.

The approval rating for Kishida’s government, launched in October 2021, reached an all-time low in December 2023, at 22.3%, falling below what is widely considered the “danger level” of 30 %.

The latest poll also shows that 77.3 percent of respondents believe tough sanctions are needed against leaders of the Abe faction and that led by former LDP Secretary General Toshihiro Nikai, who were at the center of the scandal funds.

The survey, meanwhile, showed that 87.9% of respondents do not think the Japanese economy has improved, although the Nikkei Stock Average, a benchmark of 225 issues, outperformed at late last month its previous high of 38,915.87, recorded in December 1989.

Earlier this month, the Nikkei index closed at a new high above the 40,000 mark, as the sharp depreciation of the yen boosted the profitability of the country’s exporters, seen as a key driver of economic growth.

But Japan lost its status as the world’s third-largest economy to Germany in 2023 and unexpectedly slipped into recession in the final quarter of last year, with rising prices and slow wage growth undermining confidence. consumers.

In 2023, core consumer prices in Japan, excluding volatile fresh food products, jumped 3.1%, marking the fastest pace of increase in 41 years.

As for possible Japanese exports of next-generation fighter jets that would be co-developed with Britain and Italy, 44.7 percent said they should never be allowed, but 48.1 percent said that they should be allowed if the country limited the destinations of shipments.

To promote exports of new fighter jets to third countries, the Japanese government late last year relaxed the country’s strict rules on transfers of defense equipment, long maintained under its Constitution renouncing war.

By political party, support for the main opposition party, the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, increased from 9.0 percent to 10.1 percent, while that of the Japan Innovation Party declined to 8.0 percent. 9 percent versus 9.4 percent.

No opposition party other than the CDPJ achieved a support rate above 10 percent, despite the slush fund scandal that eroded public confidence in the PLD. Respondents who said they did not support any particular party affiliation jumped to 31.3 percent from 28.5 percent.

The survey covered 507 randomly selected households with eligible voters and 2,129 mobile phone numbers. The survey obtained responses from 426 household members and 617 mobile phone users.

Parts of Ishikawa Prefecture affected by the Noto Peninsula earthquake on New Year’s Day were excluded from the survey.

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