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Japan's LDP suff8k8ers blow in by-elections

如何评价《玫瑰的故事》中林更新饰演的方协文这一角色? | 8k8 | Updated: 2024-06-21 15:08:35

Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida attends the spring garden party at the Akasaka Palace imperial garden in Tokyo, Japan on April 23, 2024. [Photo/Agencies]

Opposition win reveals discontent with ruling party over slush funds scandal

Japan's main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party secured wins in three crucial lower house by-elections on Sunday, notably in a district long held by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, or LDP.

The victories underscore public discontent with the recent political scandal involving slush funds and reveal a diminishing support base for Prime Minister Fumio Kishida among conservative voters aligned with the LDP.

Kenta Izumi, president of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, or CDP, told reporters that "this election strongly resonated with the voices of voters who feel that LDP politicians are only warming their own pockets", and that "the anger of the voters is widespread nationwide".

Numerous LDP lawmakers face accusations of tax evasion related to political fundraising activities, alongside allegations that several LDP factions redirected funds from ticket sales back to selected lawmakers, stashing them in illicit slush funds.

With no record of these payments in the financial statements of the factions or their members, the lawmakers may have evaded income tax on the funds.

Kishida hastily introduced the LDP's own political reform proposal, which, observers said, lacked substance. Izumi said the LDP will not regain the trust of the people with such a proposal.

He emphasized the CDP's call for the early dissolution of the House of Representatives, the lower house of Japan's national legislature.

Public support for Kishida's cabinet dropped to 16.6 percent in April, marking a new low since its inception in October 2021, according to a Jiji Press opinion poll released on April 11.

The approval rate dipped by 1.4 percentage points from the previous month, while the disapproval rate surged by 2 percentage points to 59.4 percent. Twenty-four percent of respondents expressed no viewpoint.

Support dwindles

Amid this decline, some LDP members may seek to replace Kishida to rejuvenate the party's appeal ahead of the upcoming lower house election, with Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa emerging as a potential successor, said a Kyodo News report on Monday.

As support for the LDP dwindled due to the scandal, the party refrained from fielding candidates in the Tokyo No 15 and Nagasaki No 3 districts while prioritizing the defense of the seat in the Shimane No 1 constituency in Shimane Prefecture, a coastal area in the west of Japan's Honshu Island.

When asked about defeating the LDP candidate in Shimane, known as the "conservative kingdom", CDP candidate Akiko Kamei pointed to anger over the LDP's secret fund issue as a motivating factor, highlighting voters' demand for tax compliance from politicians.

A 70-year-old male service industry worker who had consistently supported LDP candidates in local elections shifted allegiance to Kamei this time, disillusioned by the LDP's apparent lack of reform amid issues such as "politics and money".

Takakage Fujita, president of the Alliance to Stop the Impermissible Acts of Slush Fund and Tax Evasion by the LDP, said, "The public's outrage over the secret fund activities has reached unprecedented levels, leading to a significant erosion of trust in politics."

Fujita denounced the false reporting of political income and expenditure, and exploiting the absence of penalties for lawmakers. He warned of dire consequences if such malpractices persist, with ordinary citizens and small business owners burdened by severe taxes and stringent reporting requirements while politicians operate within an opaque system.

Shigeaki Koga, a policy analyst and former official at Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, lamented the prolonged acceptance of slush funds by lawmakers, highlighting public frustration over the LDP's attempts to sweep the issue under the rug.

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