Japanese PM Says Won’t Resign over Party’s By-Elections Defeat

Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said last Tuesday that he would not step down or replace senior party officials despite the governing Liberal Democratic Party suffering a major defeat in the previous weekend’s by-elections.

Kishida blamed the losses on the party’s political fundraising scandal that broke late last year and said he would pursue political reforms and anti-corruption measures instead of stepping down.

The prime minister told reporters that as the leader of the Liberal Democratic Party, he believed that the way for him to take responsibility would be to “tackle the challenges we face” and “achieve results.” Kishida insisted that this was the way to “regain the people’s trust.”

Dozens of lawmakers from the governing party were accused of falsifying records to pocket the profits from ticket sales to political events.

When asked if he took responsibility for the losses in the April 28 by-elections, Kishida insisted that he would not resign nor would he replace the senior leaders of the Liberal Democratic Party. Instead, he vowed to pursue various reforms, including revising the country’s political fund laws.

Kishida’s conservative Liberal Democratic Party lost all three parliamentary seats in the by-elections in Tokyo, Nagasaki, and the conservative stronghold of Shimane. The loss was viewed as a rebuke by voters over the scandal that has weakened Kishida’s leadership.

Since the corruption scandal hit, Kishida has been facing plummeting approval. Despite removing several Cabinet ministers, conducting internal hearings, and proposing reforms, support for the Kishida government has fallen to about 20 percent.

At the same time, the governing party’s power is likely secure given the fractured opposition. However, the by-election defeats are a blow to Kishida as he seeks another three-year term as the president of the Liberal Democratic Party in September.

The losses also dampened the momentum following Kishida’s recent state visit to the United States in April which had been viewed as a tremendous success.