Japanese PM shakes up cabinet as anger mounts over Unification Church links

Japanese PM shakes up cabinet as anger mounts over Unification Church links

  • Voter support is collapsing because of the party’s ties to the church
  • The shock comes earlier than analysts expected
  • The Church defends its right to participate in politics
  • Kishida only selected ministers to “verify” ties to the group.

TOKYO, Aug 10 (Portal) – Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida reshuffled his cabinet on Wednesday as he battled growing public anger over his party’s long-standing ties to the Unification Church, which has hurt his approval ratings.

The issue has deepened into a major responsibility for Kishida, who said at a news conference he has no ties to the church and that the organization – which critics call a cult – has not influenced the policies of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

The cabinet reshuffle came sooner than analysts had expected and underscores how the lawmaker’s ties to the church have become a drain on the prime minister less than a year after he took office. The shaking has become the most visible aftermath of the assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe last month. Continue reading

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Abe’s alleged killer has said his mother was a member of the Unification Church who went bankrupt through donations and has accused Abe of promoting the group.

“We must respect freedom of religion, but it is only natural that these groups must abide by the law and be dealt with when they deviate from them,” Kishida said.

“As far as I know, I have no connection with the church,” he said.

Even as the LDP has sought to distance itself from the church, with a top official promising this week to cut ties, the church defended its right to engage in politics and held a rare press conference. Continue reading

The church, founded in South Korea in the 1950s and known for its mass weddings, has come under criticism over a number of issues, including the way it collects funds.

Some key cabinet members, such as foreign and finance ministers, retained their posts, but among the high-profile ministers who were removed was Abe’s younger brother, Nobuo Kishi, who had been defense minister.

Kishida said he selected experienced ministers to deal with numerous crises, but only those who had agreed to “review” their links with the group in a bid to regain public confidence.

He said that while politicians meet many people on the job, they have to cut ties with problematic groups.

In the most recent poll, Kishida’s support had fallen to 46% from 59% three weeks ago, public broadcaster NHK said on Monday, the lowest reading since he took office as prime minister last October.

“Criticism of the Unification Church has led to a large decline in public support for the government, and halting this decline has been an important reason to push ahead with the reshuffle of the cabinet and the positions of the main parties,” said Shigenobu Tamura, a political commentator , previously for the LDP.

A total of seven clergymen who had disclosed ties to the church were reshuffled, Tamura said.

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Reporting by Elaine Lies, Yoshifumi Takemoto, Sakura Murakami, Tetsushi Kajimoto, and Tim Kelly; writing by Elaine Lies; Editing by David Dolan and Clarence Fernandez

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