Japanese PM Kishida Faces Low Public Support Amid Political and Economic Turmoil

New Poll Shows Only 10.4% Back Kishida for LDP Leadership as Approval Ratings Plummet; Government Announces Fresh Inflation Relief Measures.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida faces dwindling public support, with only 10.4 percent of the Japanese public wanting him to win the upcoming leadership race of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in September, according to a Kyodo News poll. The survey, conducted over the weekend, also revealed that the approval rating for Kishida’s Cabinet has fallen to 22.2 percent, a drop from the previous 24.2 percent.

A significant majority, 78.9 percent, of respondents believe that a revised law to reform political funding rules, enacted by Japan’s parliament last week, fails to address the issue of money in politics. The law was introduced by the LDP in May following a slush funds scandal that has eroded public trust in politics.

In an effort to regain public support, Kishida announced new inflation relief measures on Friday. These measures include cash handouts to low-income households to help them cope with the rising cost of living. The relief package will complement existing government subsidies aimed at reducing household utility bills. Despite these efforts, Kishida’s emphasis on wealth redistribution through pay hikes has not mitigated the impact of rising prices on consumers.

The new plan will see the government reinstating support to curb electricity and gas bills for households between August and October, a period of high energy demand. Additionally, subsidies provided to oil wholesalers to limit retail gasoline prices will continue until the end of the year. Kishida emphasized the importance of targeting government support to vulnerable groups, such as pensioners and small businesses, though the funding source for these measures remains unspecified.

Japan’s inflation rate has been slower compared to other countries like the United States. The country’s price increases are largely due to higher costs for imported energy and raw materials, exacerbated by a weak yen. In May, consumer inflation rose 2.5 percent year-on-year, surpassing the Bank of Japan’s 2 percent target.

During a press conference, Kishida outlined that the new energy-related measures aim to reduce monthly consumer prices by an average of 0.5 percentage points or more. However, he acknowledged that the provision of gasoline, electricity, and gas subsidies is at odds with Japan’s decarbonization goals and cannot be sustained indefinitely.

In political developments, Japan’s House of Representatives recently voted down a no-confidence motion against Kishida’s Cabinet. The motion, submitted by the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDPJ) and supported by other opposition parties, was a response to the newly enacted political funds control law, which critics argue fails to enhance financial transparency in politics. The ruling bloc, consisting of the LDP and its junior partner Komeito, holds a majority and rejected the motion.

The CDPJ has called for more stringent changes to the law, including a ban on corporate donations to political parties, to restore public trust following the fundraising scandal involving the LDP. The opposition argues that the revised law, which includes lowering the threshold for disclosing the names of those who purchase fundraising party tickets and changing reporting rules for policy activity funds, does not go far enough.

Despite mounting pressure and low approval ratings since the formation of his Cabinet in October 2021, Kishida has dismissed speculation about dissolving the lower house for a snap election. Instead, attention now shifts to whether he can secure reelection in the LDP’s presidential race in September.

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