Saturday, October 1, 2022

Japan after Abe’s assassination: party and creed

VFour weeks after the assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the Japanese government is struggling to save its reputation from damage. More than 80 percent of those polled in a recent NHK poll said the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) had not adequately disclosed its ties with the Unification Church religious sect, now known as the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification.

Japan after Abe's assassination: party and creed

Patrick Welter

Correspondent for Business and Politics in Japan, based in Tokyo.

Public distrust is deep. Over the past three weeks, support for incumbent Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has dropped from 59 to 46 percent. Rising Covid infections and high inflation in the seventh wave also contribute to discontent. Kishida, who has ruled since October, has never had such a bad election result.

Such are the unexpected consequences of Abe’s murder. According to the information received by the investigating officers, the criminal attributes his anger to the religious sect as the reason for the crime. His mother is said to have donated 100 million yen (approximately 720,000 euros) to the sect several years ago and put the family in financial trouble. The perpetrator claims to have shot Abe after he learned of the influential politician’s sect’s ties via the Internet.

“no systematic relationship”

As a curtain was lifted, this information brought an unexpected mainstream media focus in Japan to the Unification Church’s relationship with politics. Many Japanese journalists who previously considered a well-known secret in the government district suddenly found themselves in the glare of the public.

Politicians such as Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi, Abe’s brother, were forced to disclose that members of the Unification Church supported him in the election campaign. Other politicians recalled congratulations for events organized by the sect or organizations close to it, or for donations made.

According to some research, dozens of prominent politicians from LDP and some other parties have links with this sect. Liberal Democrat general secretary Toshimitsu Motegi has repeatedly asserted that the party’s systematic relationship with the sect does not exist and will not exist in the future.

picture is messed up again

Kishida attempted to emancipate Wednesday with an early cabinet reshuffle. The prime minister claims that, to the best of his knowledge, he himself has no affiliation with the Unification Church. He demanded that ministers in the new cabinet investigate and disclose possible links and exercise caution when dealing with “socially problematic” organizations in the future. All the new ministers had made this promise.

It is questionable whether this will be enough to stoke distrust. The opposition criticized that the promised comprehensive explanation did not materialise. This is likely to prove more damaging to the government that on Emancipation Day, media such as the newspaper “Asahi” reported that the four ministers along with the new cabinet still had ties to the Unification Church.

It was about donations from local party organizations of politicians to a religious denomination several years ago of about 200 euros. Defense Minister Kishi was sacked due to serious health problems, but Kishida remains security adviser. Thus, the image of purification intended by Kishida is again damaged.

Tomihiro Tanaka, president of the Japanese section of the Family Federation, told reporters on Wednesday that she was “unfortunate” that Kishida wanted to break ties with politicians. Tanaka pointed out that as citizens, union members have the right guaranteed in the constitution to actively participate in elections. The federation does not support any specific party, but has greater overlap with the politicians of the LDP due to its anti-communist attitude.

Kishida rejected any influence of the Family Union on the Liberal Democrats. “We do not believe that the policies of the former Unification Church have had an undue influence on the policies of the LDP,” he said.

Nation World News Desk
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