japan reconstruction minister is fourth cabinet step months afp jiji press afp

Japan’s Kishida loses fourth minister in three months

Japan’s reconstruction minister resigned on Tuesday over alleged financial irregularities, becoming the fourth minister to leave Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s cabinet in just three months.

Kenya Akiba, who is under indictment for allegedly making illegal political payments to his aides, wife and mother, told reporters: “I believe there is no illegality in terms of actions.”

But “I don’t want budgetary proceedings and other legislative agendas to stall,” he added.

Shortly after Akiba’s resignation, a controversial member of the ruling party who served as parliamentary deputy minister for home affairs and communications also resigned.

Mio Sugita, a right-wing politician often accused of divisive rhetoric, has come under fire in recent weeks for comments he made several years ago about same-sex couples and ethnic minorities.

The resignation comes as Kishida battles some of the lowest approval ratings of his tenure, with local media describing a “domino effect” of departures from his cabinet.

The public has grown increasingly disillusioned after a series of scandals involving ministers and revelations about ties between lawmakers and the Unification Church sect.

“I feel responsible for the resignation of a minister,” Kishida told reporters after Akiba’s departure.

“We have to continue to manage a mountain of tasks at hand. I want to fulfill my responsibility by continuing the work of politics.”

Kishida’s home affairs minister resigned last month over alleged irregularities in campaign finance, and his justice minister resigned in November after saying his “low-profile” work only generated media coverage when he passed death sentences.

In October, the economic revitalization minister resigned over allegations of Unification Church ties.

The sect has been in the spotlight since reports emerged that the man accused of killing former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in July resented the organization over donations made by his mother that bankrupted the family.

The church, officially known as the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, has denied any wrongdoing.

Approval ratings for Kishida’s cabinet have hovered around the so-called “danger level” of 30 percent, and there has been speculation that he could shuffle his cabinet before the next session of parliament opens in January.

Kishida said he has no immediate plan to shuffle his cabinet.