In a major development, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's "dearest friend" and his Japanese counterpart Fumio Kishida is set to face a no-confidence motion on Tuesday. Reuters reported. According to an earlier report by Japan Times, the main Opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan was hesitating over whether to submit a no-confidence motion against Kishida's Cabinet. But on Sunday, the Opposition party agreed to file a motion against Kishida.
The allegations that some lawmakers received thousands of dollars in unreported funds pose the biggest political challenge to the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) since it reclaimed its long-held grip on power in 2012.
Public approval for Kishida's administration hit a record low
A poll conducted over the weekend saw public approval for Kishida's administration hit a record low, while media on Monday reported the main opposition party was preparing a no-confidence motion against top government spokesman Hirokazu Matsuno, the highest profile minister implicated in the scandal. "We'll consider appropriate measures at the right time to restore public trust and prevent delays in national politics," Kishida told reporters on Monday.
The Asahi newspaper reported late on Sunday that Kishida has decided to replace four ministers and 11 other ministerial positions in his cabinet. Other media have reported Kishida could reshuffle his cabinet as early as Thursday. As well as Chief Cabinet Secretary Matsuno, Trade Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura, Internal Affairs Minister Junji Suzuki and Agriculture Minister Ichiro Miyashita are among those to be replaced, which also included deputies and parliamentary secretaries, Asahi reported.
During his regular briefing on Monday, Matsuno largely repeated his previous remarks that an investigation was underway and he would take appropriate actions. "I intend to fulfil the responsibilities of duties I have been given," Matsuno told reporters.
Nishimura on Sunday said he would stay in the post and review his fundraising proceeds. Suzuki and Miyashita have not commented on the allegations.
The 15 officials that Asahi reported would be sacked belong to the LDP's biggest and most powerful Seiwa-kai faction which prosecutors have investigated for allegedly hiding hundreds of millions of yen of political funds over five years.
The grouping was formerly led by late Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and is often still referred to as the Abe faction. The LDP - which has held power for nearly all of Japan's post-war era - is due to hold leadership elections in September with a general election due by October 2025 at the latest.
Power struggle for Kishida
The scandal could stir up a power struggle inside the party that could influence the outcome of the leadership contest and the party's management. Kishida is set to hold a press conference on Wednesday at the end of the current parliament session to explain his administration's responses, Asahi said.
Kishida, who took office in October 2021, has seen his cabinet's approval rating slide in recent months, mainly over voter worries about rising living costs and looming tax hikes to fund his bumper military build-up plans.
A Fuji News Network-Sankei poll released on Monday showed his administration's popularity sink to a record low of 22.5%, down 5.3 percentage points from the previous month. About 46% of responders in the survey said they want Kishida to stay in power until his tenure as LDP leader expires in September, while about 41% want him replaced immediately.