Japan’s Ex-Vice Education Minister’s arrest puts PM Kishida and LDP under pressure

A financial scandal has resulted in the arrest of former vice-education minister Yoshitaka Ikeda, intensifying pressure on Prime Minister Fumio Kishida of Japan.

Japan is currently grappling with a significant financial scandal that has resulted in the arrest of Yoshitaka Ikeda, a former vice-education minister. This scandal is placing additional pressure on Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).

The allegations against Ikeda involve the suspicion of not reporting cash received from fundraising events organized by his group within the LDP. The wider scandal revolves around LDP politicians failing to report approximately ¥600 million (£3.3 million) in funds, potentially violating campaign and election laws. These undisclosed funds are alleged to be connected to illegal activities.

A substantial number of politicians belong to the party’s largest faction, once led by the late former Prime Minister Shinzō Abe. Ikeda, accused of excluding over ¥48 million from reports between 2018 and 2022, was arrested alongside his policy secretary, Kazuhiro Kakinuma.

Prime Minister Kishida, already dealing with low approval ratings and criticism over his handling of the cost-of-living crisis, described Ikeda’s arrest as “extremely regrettable.” He has pledged to form a panel to strengthen fundraising regulations. The ongoing scandal has further diminished Kishida’s popularity, with his approval ratings dropping below 20%, marking the lowest for a Japanese prime minister in over a decade.

As the scandal unfolds, the LDP is facing internal challenges, with speculation arising that it might trigger an internal power struggle. This internal turmoil could potentially impact Kishida’s position ahead of the party’s presidential election which is set to be in nine months.

While the LDP has dominated Japanese politics since the mid-1950s, it is not scheduled to face a general election until 2025. This timeline minimizes the immediate electoral impact of the scandal. However, questions remain about the potential fallout and whether the opposition can influence the situation to mount a credible challenge.