Japan pm to review Unification Church ties as polls slide

Japan pm to review Unification Church ties as polls slide

TOKYO: Japanese prime minister Fumio Kishida will reshuffle his cabinet on Wednesday Aug 10 and pay attention to politicians' relations with the Unification Church, trying to distance himself from the controversial group and reverse a slump in opinion polls.

The reshuffle comes as Kishida's administration faces tumbling support rates. Since former prime minister Shinzo Abe was shot dead last month, public scrutiny of the group and ruling Liberal Democratic Party LDP lawmakers has increased dramatically since the group's links.

Abe was shot by a man whose mother is a member, who told investigators he believed Abe had promoted the group to which his mother had made ruinous donations, Japanese media reported.

On Tuesday, Kishida said that new members of his Cabinet and new ruling party officials must review their ties with the group.

It will be a prerequisite, Kishida said, speaking at a news conference in Nagasaki.

Support for Kishida's cabinet has fallen to the lowest level since he took office last October, down to 46 per cent from 59 per cent three weeks ago, according to NHK public broadcaster on Monday. A large majority of respondents said they wanted an explanation of politicians' ties to the Unification Church.

Kishida said in Nagasaki that his cabinet needs to be reshuffled to deal with problems such as rising prices and an increasingly tense security environment.

He said that we are facing the most critical situation since the end of World War II.

Finance Minster Shunichi Suzuki will be retained, government and LDP sources told Reuters, but they declined to be named due to the sensitivity of the situation.

Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi will keep his job, as will Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno and LDP Secretary General Toshimitsu Motegi, according to media reports.

Industry Minister Koichi Hagiuda is expected to be shifted to a position outside the Cabinet, most likely to be chairman of the policy research committee of the LDP, the Yomiuri Shimbun daily said.

One of the advisers of Kishida, Minoru Terada, and upper house lawmaker Naoki Okada, is expected to be appointed to the Cabinet for the first time, according to Yomiuri.

Kishida appears to be moving early to try to stop the slide in his support as soon as possible, but analysts said the reshuffle was due to take place in early September. While his ratings are currently hitting record highs due to COVID 19 cases, the main issues in opinion surveys are public unhappiness with the idea of a state funeral for Abe, Japan's longest-serving premier, a polarising force in the country, along with the Unification Church connections.

Airo Hino, a professor at Waseda University, said his cabinet lineup will show that the LDP is taking tough measures to deal with what is now a problem of individuals before it affects the whole party.

He doesn't want to drag on with the Unification Church problem.