As the third Cabinet member to resign in less than a month due to a funding controversy, Japan's internal affairs minister's recent resignation caused Prime Minister Fumio Kishida a serious hit to his already precarious standing.
Following media allegations that the prime minister was planning to fire him, interior minister Minoru Terada submitted his letter of resignation to Kishida. Terada, who has been under fire for a number of financing issues, has admitted that one of his supporters submitted funding paperwork that was purportedly signed by a deceased individual.
Following the July murder of former prime minister Shinzo Abe, which exposed close and long-standing ties between leading members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and the Unification Church, a movement that some have criticized as a cult, Kishida's popularity ratings have plummeted. In order to prioritize legislative discussion, including debates on a second additional budget for the fiscal year ending in March, Kishida claimed he had accepted Terada's resignation.
When questioned about the resignations of three ministers since October 24, Kishida stated he would like to apologize. He told reporters, "I feel a heavy responsibility," and he intended to formally announce Terada's replacement early on Monday. According to NHK public television, he would probably propose former foreign minister Takeaki Matsumoto.
The struggling prime minister's support ratings have remained below 30% in numerous recent opinion polls, a figure that would make it challenging for him to carry out his political objectives. Terada's resignation could further erode the prime minister's position.
A "golden three years" with no need for national elections until 2025 had been widely anticipated for Kishida after he led the LDP to an electoral win days after Abe was shot and killed while campaigning. The alleged assassin of Abe said that the Unification Church had rendered his mother destitute and accused Abe of having promoted it. Although numerous politicians have connections to the religion, the LDP has stated that there is no organizational connection between the party and the group.
The decision by Kishida to have a state burial for Abe, which occurred at the end of September, was likewise opposed by a large majority of voters. On Oct.24, Economic Revitalization Minister Daishiro Yamagiwa resigned due to his affiliation with the sect, and Kishida came under pressure from voters for what they perceived as his tardy and awkward handling of the problem.
Yasuhiro Hanashi, the justice minister, resigned in the middle of November after making remarks that were perceived as downplaying his job duties, specifically authorizing executions. Given that they belonged to Kishida's LDP faction, Hanashi and Terada's resignations are probably going to be very difficult.