Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida yesterday dismissed his fourth minister in two months to patch a scandal-tainted Cabinet that has raised questions over his judgement of staff credentials.
Kenya Akiba, who was Japanese minister for reconstruction, has faced allegations of mishandling political and election funds, and of having murky ties to the Unification Church, whose cozy political ties and practices surrounding followers’ huge donations have raised controversy.
“I have made a heavy decision and submitted my resignation,” Akiba told reporters after meeting with Kishida.
He said he had not contravened any laws in relation to the issues over which he has been criticized.
Kishida tapped former Japanese minister for reconstruction Hiromichi Watanabe as a replacement. Watanabe’s appointment would be made official after a palace ceremony.
Akiba’s dismissal was seen as Kishida’s attempt to remove a soft spot in the administration that could stall upcoming parliamentary work on a key budget bill, including hefty defense spending aimed at bolstering Japan’s strike capability.
Jun Azumi, a senior lawmaker of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan who has criticized Kishida as making other slow decisions on his staff, said on Monday that “four [dismissals] are too much and the prime minister should be held responsible over their appointment.”
Kishida yesterday also replaced Mio Sugita as Japanese vice minister for internal affairs and communications. She has made past derogatory remarks against sexual and ethnic minorities.
Sugita in 2018 said that same-sex couples do not produce children and are “unproductive,” and in 2016 scoffed at those wearing traditional ethnic costumes at an UN’ committee meeting as “middle-aged women in costume play.”
Sugita submitted her resignation saying that she cannot bend her beliefs, while retracting some of her earlier comments, Kishida said.
Kishida had been seen as a stable choice as leader after his victory in July, but his popularity has plummeted over the Liberal Democratic Party’s (LDP) widespread church ties that surfaced after the assassination of former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe.
The suspected shooter told investigators that his mother’s donations to the church had bankrupted his family and ruined his life.
He reportedly targeted Abe as a key figure behind the church’s ties to Japan’s LDP-led government.
Revelations have since surfaced about many LDP lawmakers having ties to the church, which has been criticized for allegedly brainwashing followers into making huge donations. A new law passed by the Japanese parliament earlier this month aims to restrict such activities.
Daishiro Yamagiwa quit as Japanese minister of economic revitalization on Oct. 24 after failing to explain his ties to the Unification Church.
Early last month, Yasuhiro Hanashi resigned as Japanese minister of justice after saying that his job is low-profile and only makes the news when he signs the death penalty.
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