Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Kishida Continues with Unintended Errors

PM Kishida Fails in Preventing Scandal

By Takuya Nishimura, Senior Fellow, Former Editorial Writer for The Hokkaido Shimbun
The views expressed by the author are his own and are not associated with The Hokkaido Shimbun
You can find his blog, J Update here.
November 5, 2023. Special to Asia Policy Point 

Only five days after a Parliamentary Vice-Minister resigned after his illicit relationship with a woman became public, a State Minister stepped down due to his involvement in an illegal local election campaign. Although Prime Minister Fumio Kishida admitted his responsibility for the original appointments, he nevertheless failed to appoint the right people. As scandals accumulate, Kishida has responded to each of them in the same way. He is, losing credibility, and the accreting misadventures are slowly damaging his administration.

The State Minister of Justice, Mito Kakizawa, resigned on October 31st, admitting his involvement in an illegal election campaign in April for a mayoral candidate in Tokyo’s Koto Ward, Yayoi Kimura. Kimura appeared in an advertising video on YouTube with the subtitle “Vote for Yayoi Kimura.” The Public Offices Election Law prohibits paid election advertisements on the Internet. Accused of a violation in the local assembly, Kimura stepped down as mayor in late October.

In an interview with the Asahi Shimbun, Kakizawa acknowledged that he had advised Kimura to make that ad, because it would be “effective.” But a State Minister of Justice should know well about the illegality of the campaign ad. Kakizawa resigned five days after Kimura stepped down.

Since then, the Yomiuri Shimbun has reported that Kakizawa is suspected of giving money to an assembly member of Koto Ward in exchange for support for Kimura in the campaign in April. The Special Investigation Department of Tokyo Public Prosecutors’ Office has been interviewing assembly members about the alleged bribe. A similar incident involving Katsuyuki Kawai in Hiroshima, led to his arrest in 2020 and imprisonment in 2021.

This is serious stuff for Kishida, who had just replaced his Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Education and Post-Disaster Reconstruction after a reported extramarital affair. “I take my responsibility as the appointer seriously. I'll do my best to regain citizens' trust,” Kishida said in the discussion at the Committee on Budget in the House of Councillors on October 31st.

When Kishida reshuffled the State Ministers and Parliamentary Vice-Ministers in September and was criticized for not appointing any women, he argued that the selections were based on a concept of the “appropriate person to the appropriate position.” When asked whether the appointment of Kakizawa was “appropriate,” Kishida did not answer the question but said that he would do his best to regain credibility.

Since Kishida took office in 2021, his administration has endured several ministerial and staff resignations. In 2022, a “resignation domino” trend began: consecutive resignations of four Ministers: Minister for Economic Revitalization Daishiro Yamagiwa with a suspected relationship with the former Unification Church; Minister of Justice Yasuhiro Hanashi with a gaffe on the death penalty; Minister for Internal Affairs Minoru Terada with a scandal on payments for political activities; and Minister for Reconstruction Kenya Akiba with a money scandal.

Reporters have been asking how this could have happened. Kishida’s response has been the same. “I recognize my responsibility for appointing him. That is why I will take responsibility for promoting a bunch of issues forward,” Kishida said when Yamagiwa resigned.

This pattern is the same in other cases. A scandal happens, Kishida urges the suspected person to explain, the person resigns, and Kishida replaces the person and concedes his own responsibility for the appointment. But he never imposes any penalty on himself, and says only that he will continue to do his best This pattern has generated a steady decline in his approval rating

Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe handled scandals in a similar way with the motto “responsible but carry on.” When Minister for Economic Revitalization Akira Amari resigned in 2016, Abe said, “responsibility for the appointment belongs to me, and I deeply apologize to the nation.” Abe, however, did not take any specific measures to prevent scandals, other than to replace the offending minister.

Nevertheless, Abe successfully maintained his administration because he enjoyed a relatively high public approval rating. He also received support from the lawmakers in Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), because he was the leader of the biggest faction and brought victory to the LDP in the elections in both Houses. Kishida does not have these advantages. Moreover, Kishida’s repeated Cabinet reshufflings – two within two years – have made matters worse for him. Although he believes that the reshufflings create political momentum, they increase the chances of unwise appointments.

If Kishida is to avoid scandals and resignations, he needs better background information about potential appointees. But his State Ministers and Parliamentary Vice-Ministers are selected solely from lists forwarded by various factions in the LDP. It is doubtful that Kishida had good staff work.

Former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi upheld a principle of “One Cabinet, One Minister,” which meant that each minister should remain as long as possible. If a Minister is changed in the short term, he or she will not accumulate enough knowledge on policies. Koizumi introduced the same principle in his Cabinet to keep the grip on the bureaucracy. Kishida has many things to learn from past Prime Ministers.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Intelligent comments and additional information welcome. We are otherwise selective.