The fourth member of the scandalous Japanese cabinet resigned Japan

Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida ended the year facing fierce political headwinds after his reconstruction minister became the fourth member of his scandal-ridden cabinet to resign in two months.

Kenya Akiba announced his resignation on Tuesday after opposition lawmakers accused him of election law violations and ties to the Unification Church, a controversial religious group whose ties with the ruling party sent Kishida’s approval ratings to record lows.

“I take my responsibility very seriously as an appointment maker,” Kishida told reporters after Akiba left. “Rising to my political responsibilities, I hope to fulfill my duties as Prime Minister.”

Kishida effectively ordered Akiba to resign, according to Japanese media reports, in part to prevent the scandal from interfering with upcoming parliamentary debates on a budget bill that includes a dramatic increase in defense spending which Kishida claims is essential to counter the growing threats Japanthe security of China and North Korea.

Akiba has denied allegations of misuse of political and election funds and links to the Unification Church – better known as Moons.

Revelations that the ultraconservative religious group has ties to a large number of Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) politicians have dogged Kishida since assassination attempt in July of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Tetsuya Yamagami, who is suspected of shooting Abe while he was giving a campaign speech in the western city of Nara, has told investigators he turned to politics because he believed he had ties to the church he blamed for the bankruptcy of his family.

Akiba has denied any links to the church but admitted the LDP branch he leads paid ¥48,000 (£299) to two organizations linked to the group, which he claimed were magazine subscriptions, according to an agency Kyodo.

It’s like a person ordered an inspection in the finances and organization of the United Church and this month supported a new law for helps victims of his controversial fundraising methodsbut Akiba’s resignation prompted fresh criticism of his political judgment.

Economic Revival Minister Daishiro Yamagiwa resigned in October after failing to explain his ties to the church. Last month, Justice Minister Yasuhiro Hanashi resigned after making an ill-judged joke about the death penalty, while Interior Minister Minoru Terada was effectively fired over a political fund scandal.

The ongoing controversy surrounding the Unification Church is expected to continue next year, just as the cabinet’s approval ratings approach the “danger level” of 30 percent and with Kishida’s party facing potentially damaging local elections in the spring.

Support for the cabinet fell to 33.1%, according to a Kyodo poll last week – the lowest level since Kishida became prime minister in October last year.

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