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EDITORIAL | Mere Cabinet Changes Cannot Restore Trust in Kishida Gov't

The PM should have ordered a thorough investigation into the LDP political funds scandal to restore public trust in his Cabinet. He instead sat on his hands.



Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on December 14, 2023. (© Sankei by Yuta Yasumoto)

It is extremely regrettable that the extraordinary session of the Diet just ended without fulfilling its duty regarding trust and accountability.  The most obvious failure is the controversy surrounding political funding parties organized by factions of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). The factions and ministers involved, including Cabinet members, failed to explain the facts. Instead, they cited reasons, such as that there were ongoing investigations into the matter. 

Moreover, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida should have ordered the parties concerned to thoroughly investigate the matter and make their findings public. However, he has instead sat on his hands. 

At a press conference that followed the adjournment of the Diet, Kishida said: "I will take the lead in fighting to radically make over the LDP to restore trust in politics. I have determined that it is my duty to do so."

As Leader, Kishida Must Explain

Kishida also said that the individuals directly involved should investigate the facts and explain everything to the public. But he did not set any time limit for such investigations, nor did he offer any specifics.

As promised, the Prime Minister announced key personnel changes on Thursday, December 14. Among others, he replaced Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno and Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Yasutoshi Nishimura. Both are members of the Abe faction previously headed by the late Shinzo Abe

The intent may be to help the Kishida government restore its footing by removing members of the Abe faction from the Cabinet. But what meaning does that have without clarification of the facts and full public accounting for the nation's people?

Diet members cast their ballot on a Cabinet no-confidence vote in the House of Representatives on December 13. (© Sankei by Ataru Haruna)

More Than One Faction

The problem is not limited to the Abe faction. There are suspicions that some income from faction parties was not recorded for the Kishida faction itself. In addition, similar suspicions exist regarding the Toshihiro] Nikai faction. 

The Prime Minister previously stated he was "not aware" of the allegations of backroom money. He told reporters on December 12 that "if there are any points that need to be corrected, we will respond appropriately."


Nevertheless, we demand a thorough investigation of the entire situation. That includes whether it does or does not involve black money.

There are also issues of judgment at stake. While the Diet was still in session, a no-confidence resolution regarding Chief Cabinet Minister Matsuno was defeated by a majority vote of the ruling parties. That left a bad taste. Considering that Matsuno was going to be replaced anyway, why didn't he simply resign before the vote?

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, Finance Minister Shunichi Suzuki, and then-Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno bow after the FY2025 supplementary budget is approved in the Lower House on November 24. (© Sankei by Ataru Haruna)

Many Missing Explanations

The political funds issue is not the only thing that has been inadequately explained. One case is the proposed financial resources for measures designed to stem declining births. There has been no specific clarification of the content of social security sector reforms related to these expenditures.

Meanwhile, the supplementary budget for FY2023, which underpins the government's recent economic measures, was enacted. However, the significance and effects of the flat-rate reduction in income tax and resident tax were not persuasively conveyed. 

Furthermore, the discussion of security policies did not deepen. And no progress was made in terms of drawing up constitutional reform legislation. 

The Cabinet approval ratings have now reached an all-time low. At his press conference, the Prime Minister quoted the Confucian saying, "Nothing can be accomplished without the trust of the people."

But unless Kishida and the LDP provide thorough and prompt explanations, they will not enjoy that trust. 


(Read the editorial in Japanese.)

Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun


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