The Japanese government headed by Fumio Kishida is facing a serious crisis of public confidence. According to a survey conducted in January by the Yomiuri Shimbun, only 24% of Japanese approve of his administration, a historic low.
This lack of confidence in the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) government has been deteriorating for more than a year, especially when the party’s links with a Christian religious sect and a corruption scandal were revealed.
Opposition has taken advantage of these situations to criticize the Executive and the Prime Minister’s popularity has fallen considerably.
LDP links with the Unification Church
There has been criticism of the LDP due to the links that some of its members have with the Unification Church, a sect founded by Sun Myung Moon in 1954. According to an internal party investigation, almost half of its current deputies have had some interaction with the church and its followers.
The sect has relied on anti-communist rhetoric and has sought backing from conservative politicians in Japan and other countries, such as the United States. The Unification Church has established a clear vocation for political influence and has cultivated relationships with the powers-that-be to gain support in exchange for manipulating people and gaining votes for ultra-conservative factions.
Attack on Shinzo Abe and subsequent revelations
Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was the target of an attack in July 2022, when he was shot by a man who believed that Abe and other LDP members had ties to the Unification Church.
This attack highlighted allegations by some that the party was benefiting from the votes of the sect’s followers. People who left the Unification Church have claimed that they were instructed to vote for LDP candidates in different elections.
These revelations increased distrust towards the party and its relationship with the sect.
LDP strategies and political polarization
With the exception of a few periods, the LDP has held power in Japan almost uninterruptedly since 1955. After losing the elections in 2009, the party was forced to rethink its strategy and created an internet group to remove and hide negative information about the party while enhancing the positive.
This narrative strategy was partly inspired by the experience of the Unification Church and its polarizing strategy. However, the party’s reputation has taken a hit following the discovery of public fund diversions and corruption cases involving LDP members, including factions led by Shinzo Abe and Fumio Kishida.
Measures taken by the Japanese government
Following the attack on Shinzo Abe and revelations about links between the LDP and the Unification Church, the Japanese government has taken steps to address these situations. It has withdrawn the church status of the sect with the aim of banning it, although this goal has not yet been achieved.
In addition, compensation has been established for people affected by the sect’s abusive practices and the organization’s funds have been frozen to prevent them from being mobilized outside Japan and to avoid paying compensation.
Impact on Abe’s reputation and the legacy of the LDP
Shinzo Abe’s reputation, as well as his legacy, have been affected by his relationship with the Unification Church and accusations of profiting from the votes of his followers. The conservative party has been destabilized by these scandals and the loss of public confidence.
Several party members have been arrested in corruption cases, including Hirozaku Matsuno, Fumio Kishida’s right-hand man. These events have stirred the waters within the LDP and increased doubts about its future in the next general election scheduled for October 2025.
Japan’s government led by Fumio Kishida is facing a crisis of confidence due to the LDP’s ties to the Unification Church and the corruption cases that have come to light.
The lack of public confidence has led to a decline in the prime minister’s popularity and raised doubts about the party’s future in the upcoming elections. The government has taken steps to address these situations, but the impact on Shinzo Abe’s reputation and the LDP’s legacy is undeniable.
Political polarization and the narrative strategies used by the party have also contributed to this crisis of confidence.