Japanese PM's leadership shaken by LDP's hefty election loss, falling public support
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga on Monday said that focusing on tackling the increasingly serious COVID-19 situation in the country is his "top priority" ahead of plans to dissolve the lower house of parliament for a general election.
Suga's remarks came a day after his ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) took a pummeling in the first national elections held since he took office last September, which, in twine with a slumping support rate, have shaken Suga's leadership, according to political observers.
The elections, won by three candidates backed by opposition parties, are seen as a litmus test for the general election that must be held before Oct. 21.
The upper house re-held election in Hiroshima Prefecture, the upper house by-election in Nagano Prefecture, and the lower house by-election in Hokkaido's No. 2 district were all won by opposition candidates.
Suga said that he humbly accepts the losses and will now have to look towards making corrections and adjustments.
"I humbly accept the judgment of the people, and after studying the results further, (I) will make necessary adjustments," the Japanese leader told reporters.
He went on to say that as the leader of the LDP, he would address the criticisms directed at him regarding a series of ruling party-related money-and-politics scandals and the government's languid COVID-19 vaccine rollout.
According to a Kyodo News poll taken this month, the approval rating for Suga's Cabinet stood at 44 percent compared to 66.4 percent immediately after the Cabinet was formed after he took office.
Suga's support rate has been comparatively low owing to a string of LDP lawmakers' scandals and the sluggish rollout of vaccines despite the nation now experiencing a "fourth wave" of infections and a third state of emergency being declared and coming into effect for Tokyo and other major regions on Sunday.
Should the hosting of the Tokyo Olympic Games lead to a further spread of the virus, including the virus variants that are now prominent in western regions in Japan as well as Tokyo, as is the concern of the majority of the Japanese public, Suga's leadership could become questionable, political observers have said.
The ruling party's own members have been unsettled by the LDP's consequential defeat in the elections on Sunday, with LDP policy chief Hakubun Shimomura saying the party must now make all-out efforts to win back the public's support.
Shimomura called the results "extremely severe" and underscored the necessity to regain people's trust by bringing the novel coronavirus pandemic under control.
Yukio Edano, leader of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDPJ) told reporters the result of the elections showed that voters are "exasperated with an outdated and corrupt plutocracy."
He also said that opposition-backed candidates winning all three parliamentary elections was a testament to how annoyed voters have become with archaic, money-oriented, corrupt politics.
Edano said the win for the opposition parties now presented the opportunity for the opposition bloc to cooperate and unite for the next lower house election.