Japan Institute for National Fundamentals

Speaking out

Takashi Arimoto

【#1086】Does Kishida Have a Passion?

Takashi Arimoto / 2023.11.01 (Wed)

October 30, 2023

Is this the beginning of the end of the Kishida administration? Hiroshige Seko, secretary-general of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party in the House of Councillors, has openly questioned Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s qualifications as a leader. “The biggest reason why the prime minister’s approval rating does not improve is that [Kishida] has failed to demonstrate leadership qualities expected by the public,” Seko said at an Upper House plenary question-and-answer session on October 25.

An unusual complaint by a LDP executive

While voicing his support for Kishida at the beginning of his remarks, Seko said, “I cannot help but feel some weakness in the prime minister’s decisions and words.” Seko is in a position to be able to give the prime minister an admonition. He was blamed from within the LDP for making a discord public while being an LDP executive.

However, some LDP members defended Seko, saying that it was meaningful for him to clearly tell that a harsh view of the prime minister was widespread within the party. At a time when Kishida is seen as planning to dissolve the House of Representatives for a general election by the end of the year even though the Kishida cabinet’s approval ratings have fallen to the lowest levels, these LDP members say someone had to clearly tell him that it was not a situation where he could call any election.

It could be appreciated that Kishida in his keynote policy address on October 23 not only termed Russia’s military action against Ukraine as “aggression” but also picked up the abduction of Japanese citizens by North Korea as a most important issue and reiterated his plan to pursue high-level consultations under his direct control with Pyongyang to realize his summit meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in order to achieve the earliest possible return of all Japanese abductees.

Kishida also pledged to “return” tax revenue growth to the people. However, as Seko pointed out, the word “return” was difficult to understand and the pledge was taken as leaving somebody else to consider without making decisions for himself. Kishida did not refer to a tax cut and did not talk a lot about the content of economic stimulus measures. The prime minister failed to convey his passion as Seko rightly said.

Lack of leadership

On the October issue of Monthly Magazine SEIRON, a serial article on the inside stories of Japanese politics introduced how the late former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, whom Kishida views as a rival, described an ideal image of a leader using the word “passion.”

Asked about “leadership” by students of Harvard John F. Kennedy School of Government who visited his official residence in March 2017, Abe replied, “A leader is required to clearly articulate a target that resonates with the people, explain why it is important, and have a passion for achieving results.”

If Kishida only has much-touted ears to listen to others and fails to explain his policies and produce results with a “passion” cited by Abe, the voices that sympathize with Seko will only grow louder.

Takashi Arimoto is a Planning Committee member at the Japan Institute for National Fundamentals and Publisher of Monthly Magazine SEIRON at the Sankei Shimbun newspaper.