Third Japanese cabinet minister in a month resigns in blow to PM

TOKYO, Nov 21 (Reuters) – Japan’s interior minister resigned on Sunday amid a funding scandal, a blow to Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s already shaky support, making him the third cabinet member to resign in less than a month.

Kishida’s approval rating plummeted after the assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe last July revealed deep and long-standing ties between ruling Liberal Democratic Party politicians and the Unification Church.

Interior Minister Minoru Terada tendered his resignation to Kishida after media reports suggested the prime minister was preparing to fire him. Kishida appointed former foreign minister Takeaki Matsumoto to succeed Terada on Monday.

“The foundation of political commitment is public trust,” Kishida told reporters after Matsumoto’s appointment. “As a politician, I have to do my due diligence and earn the public’s trust.”

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Asahi TV reported Monday that only 30.5 percent of respondents in a poll conducted the weekend before Terada’s resignation supported Kishida, down 2.6 points from an October poll.

More than half of them, 51 percent, opposed the way the dismissal of the two previous ministers, Economic Recovery Minister Daishiro Yamagiwa and Justice Minister Yasuhiro Hanashi, was handled.

Terada has come under fire for several funding scandals and admitted that one of his support groups submitted funding documents signed by a deceased person.

Kishida said Terada’s resignation was accepted in order to prioritize parliamentary discussions, including the second supplementary budget debate for the fiscal year ending in March.

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Asked about the resignation of three ministers since October 24, Kishida said he wanted an apology.

He told reporters on Sunday, “I have a very heavy responsibility.

Leaving Terada could further weaken the prime minister, whose approval ratings remain below 30% in several recent polls, making it difficult for him to implement his political agenda.

Kishida was expected to enjoy a “golden three years” until 2025 when national elections are not required after leading the GOP to victory days after Abe was shot on the campaign trail.

Abe’s suspected killer accused Abe of promoting his mother by saying that he had bankrupted the Unity Church. The LTTE acknowledged that many legislators are affiliated with the church but have no organizational ties to the party.

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And Abe’s funeral at the end of September, Kishida’s decision was not accepted by the vast majority of voters.

Yamagiwa resigned on Oct. 24 over sectarian ties, and Kishida was criticized by voters for slow-moving and clumsy handling of the situation.

The resignation of Justice Minister Yasuhiro Hanashi in mid-November was more damaging than what he saw as his job responsibilities, particularly his signature on the death penalty.

Hanashi and Terada were members of Kishida’s faction in the ADF, so the resignation was likely to be painful.

Reporting by Elaine Lies and Kantaro Komiya; Edited by Gerry Doyle and Stephen Coates

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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