Sparks fly after Unification Church-linked lawmaker gets new job

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Daishiro Yamagiwa answers a question during a meeting of the House Budget Committee on October 17.

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party has appointed head of its COVID-19 task force Daishiro Yamagiwa, who recently resigned as minister of economic revitalization over ties to the Unification Church.

However, the appointment sparked an uproar even within the ruling party, with some LDP members citing it as a major reason for Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s Cabinet approval rating to drop.

“[In our party] we always put the right person in the right job,” LDP General Secretary Toshimitsu Motegi said in response to a question about Yamagiwa’s appointment at a press conference on Monday.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida speaks in Tokyo on Monday.

Yamagiwa’s ties to the group officially known as the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification came to light after Kishida decided to retain him as Minister of Economic Revitalization following a cabinet reshuffle in august.

Yamagiwa faced a strong backlash when he failed to give an adequate explanation of the ties during the Diet’s deliberations and subsequent press conferences, leaving Kishida no choice but to replace him. .

Yamagiwa assumed the post of head of the party’s pandemic task force on October 28, four days after his resignation as economic revitalization minister. The task force is part of the LDP’s Policy Research Council.

The decision to appoint Yamagiwa was reportedly taken by LDP Policy Research Council chairman Koichi Hagiuda, but the decision was not well received by LDP leaders, including Motegi and party leader Kishida, sources said.

A source linked to the faction led by LDP Vice President Taro Aso, to which Yamagiwa belongs, said: “If the faction had been consulted, this would not have happened.

The Kishida Cabinet’s approval rating was 36% in a Yomiuri Shimbun survey conducted Nov. 4-6, the lowest since his administration took office.

The LDP leadership’s handling of the situation has raised eyebrows within the party, with many lawmakers citing Yamagiwa’s latest appointment as the reason for the plummeting Cabinet approval rating.

“The timing of Yamagiwa’s appointment immediately after his resignation from the ministerial post was terrible,” said a former LDP cabinet member. “He should have had time to redeem himself.”

Another LDP MP said, “The situation could raise doubts among the public about the party’s determination to sever its ties with the Unification Church.

The opposition camp seized on the issue amid the turmoil.

General Secretary of Japan’s Democratic Constitutional Party, Katsuya Okada, told reporters on Thursday that the nomination reflected the “arrogance” of the ruling party. “A decision that appears to mock the public was made without any sign of embarrassment,” Okada said.

Kazuya Shinba, general secretary of the People’s Democratic Party, said at a press conference on Friday: “From this, we can understand that the LDP has no intention of implementing measures against the coronavirus.” .

Jerry B. Hatch