TOKYO — Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida sacked his internal affairs minister on Sunday over funding irregularities, in a blow to his scandal-prone Cabinet that has already lost two ministers in one month.
Internal Affairs Minister Minoru Terada has been under fire over several accounting and funding irregularities. In one, he acknowledged that one of his support groups submitted accounting records carrying a dead person’s signature.
“I apologize for the series of resignations,” Kishida said. “I’m aware of my heavy responsibility for their appointment.” He told reporters that he will announce Terada’s replacement on Monday.
Terada showed up at the Prime Minister’s Office and told reporters that he had submitted his resignation Kishida, though he did not say he was asked to do so.
“I made up my mind because I must not interfere with parliamentary discussion of key legislations because of my problems,” Terada said.
Terada, who has been grilled over the scandal for over a month, said his feelings were swayed between his hope to contribute to the Kishida Cabinet while being concerned about causing trouble because of his funding problems.
Kishida summoned Terada to his office and had him submit the resignation, NHK national television said. Kishida, when asked last Friday about a possible dismissal, did not defend Terada and only said he was going to make his own decision. Kishida said Sunday he believed Terada submitted his resignation in response to the comment he made in Bangkok after wrapping up the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit.
Terada had said he did not break any law, promised to fix the accounting issues and showed determination to stay on. Opposition lawmakers said funding problems for the internal affairs minister, whose job is to oversee political funds, are serious and demanded his resignation.
Recent media surveys also showed the majority of respondents supported Terada’s resignation.
His dismissal is a further blow to Kishida’s Cabinet already shaken by the governing Liberal Democratic Party’s close ties to the Unification Church, which has been accused of problematic recruiting and brainwashing followers into making huge donations, often breaking up their families.
The dismissal of Terada, a member of Kishida’s faction in the governing Liberal Democratic Party, is seen as an additional embarrassment and a blow to Kishida’s weakening grip on power.
Economic Revitalisation Minister Daishiro Yamagiwa quit on Oct. 24 after facing criticism over his lack of explanations about his ties to the Unification Church, starting what became known as “a resignation domino” of the Kishida Cabinet.
Terada’s departure comes only 10 days after Justice Minister Yasuhiro Hanashi was forced to resign over his remark that his job is low profile and only makes news when he signs the death penalty.
Kishida, whose delayed decision in firing the justice minister, had to push back his Nov. 11 departure for three Asian summits, sparking criticism from opposition lawmakers and political watchers for being indecisive and lacking leadership.
Kishida returned to Tokyo on Saturday after a nine-day trip and apparently faced pressure from his governing party executives to make a quick decision on Terada before discussions on key legislations resume Monday.
Kishida’s governing party needs to pass the second supplementary budget through March during the current parliamentary session, while also finalizing work on a new national security strategy and mid- to long-term defense guidelines by the end of the year.
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