September 21, 2022
TOKYO – The approval ratings of the Cabinet led by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida have been declining with no clear prospect of recovery, according to surveys by major media organizations, with the government and the ruling parties feeling a growing sense of crisis.
As the issue regarding the Unification Church shows no sign of being brought under control, Kishida intends to break the impasse by focusing on foreign and economic policies.
On those fronts, Kishida told reporters at the Prime Minister’s Office on Monday evening, “I postponed my departure to the United States to attend a U.N. General Assembly meeting, because I wanted to confirm the damage caused by Typhoon No. 14 and be thoroughly prepared for recovery work.”
On Monday morning, Kishida called Koichi Tani, minister of state for disaster management, to the prime minister’s official residence to receive a report on the damage. That evening, Kishida attended a meeting of related Cabinet ministers and instructed them again to implement emergency disaster measures with top priority given to saving lives.
An aide to Kishida said that, with the foundation of his administration shaken, he has paid utmost attention to crisis management in response to the disaster.
Surveys conducted by Sunday by major media organizations have shown a clear trend of decline for the Kishida Cabinet approval ratings.
According to a survey by The Mainichi Newspapers, the rate dropped by seven percentage points to 29% from the previous survey in late August, moving below 30% for the first time since Kishida launched his Cabinet in October 2021. The rate measured by Kyodo News fell by 13.9 points to 40.2%, while that of The Nihon Keizai (Nikkei) Shimbun dropped by 14 points to 43%.
The issue of the Unification Church, officially named the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, is believed to be the biggest reason for the public to be casting a stern eye on the Cabinet.
On Sept. 8, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party said a party survey found that 179 of 379 party lawmakers had interactions with the Unification Church. However, since then, there have been cases of oversights and errors in the survey. For example, after the release of the party survey results, Seiji Kihara, a deputy chief cabinet secretary and close aide to Kishida, disclosed that he had participated in a panel discussion organized by a Unification Church-affiliated organization.
Kishida has also been under fire by opposition parties for a lack of explanation on the issue of a state funeral for former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. A senior LDP lawmaker said: “It is a similar situation to that of the end of the administration of previous Prime Minister [Yoshihide] Suga. If it is impossible to stop the declining trend in approval ratings, the same thing could happen.”
With the Unification Church issue lingering, Kishida is trying to reconstruct the administration itself by accumulating tangible results in terms of foreign and economic policies. Kishida, who served as foreign minister under the Abe administration for four years and seven months, is confident in his knowledge of foreign policy.
During his visit to the United States from Tuesday, Kishida intends to promote the need to reform the United Nations and strengthen its functions and to call for support to this end in a speech at the U.N. General Assembly and meetings with other countries’ leaders.
With Abe’s state funeral on Sept. 27 providing another venue for diplomacy, Kishida intends to promote his own style of diplomacy there.