Japan culls ministers after ‘cult’ controversy — Analysis

The move follows a drop in Fumio Kishida’s ratings and public outrage over the ruling party’s links to a controversial religious group

Fumio Kishida, the Japanese Prime Minister, has reshuffled the cabinet. He removed several ministers from the Unification Church which was in the news after the death of Shinzo Abe.

Abe, the head of government between 2012-2020, was killed in July at an event. According to his killer, he harbored a grudge against Abe, who he claimed was promoting the church that allegedly caused the mother’s bankruptcy through donations.

Multiple ministers from Kishida’s cabinet and members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party had disclosed links to the Unification Church, now officially called the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification. 

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Japan had already convicted some church members of soliciting funds from their followers using illegal methods, which included threats. Critics say the church is actually a cult.  

The government’s ties to the church have been blamed for the recent slip in Fumio Kishida’s public support, as the premier’s ratings have dropped below 50% for the first time since he took office in October 2021. 

He insists that his connections with the church are not there and said that he required a stable administration in order to deal with these matters. “the biggest challenges of the postwar era”The conflict in Ukraine, tensions around Taiwan, and the Covid-19 pandemic are just a few examples. 

The new cabinet lineup was published several hours after the previous government announced its resignation.  

Kishida made the decision to retain Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno and Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi as well as Finance Minister Shunichi Suzuki.

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As part of the reshuffle, however, Nobuo Kishi (Defense Minister) has been evicted. He is the older brother of Shinzo Abe. Kishi has acknowledged receiving support from church members in past elections. Yasukazu Hayada will replace him, having previously been defense minister from 2008 to 2009. 

Other notable appointments include Economic Security Minister Sanae Takaichi, known for her hawkish foreign policy stance, and Digitization Minister Taro Kono, who was Japan’s top diplomat between 2017 and 2019, and recently headed the Liberal Democratic Party’s PR office. 

Among the immediate challenges facing the new government are drawing up a budget for the next fiscal year, organizing a state funeral for Abe, and reviewing the country’s strategy and defense policy documents, according to local media.

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