The government announced Monday that Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s eldest son will resign as secretary to the Prime Minister on Thursday.
The Shukan Bunshun magazine, an outlet known for being highly critical of the current ruling party, published photos last week showing Shotaro Kishida partying with friends and relatives in symbolic places and taking photos at the lectern where the Prime Minister addresses the nation. The party was said to have happened at the official Prime Minister’s residence on December 30 and is just recently being published.
As secretary to the Prime Minister, Shotaro Kishida typically handles political affairs and assists his father in cabinet duties.
“His behavior at a public space was inappropriate as someone who is in an official position as political aide,” the Prime Minister stated. “I’ve decided to replace him for accountability.”
“Of course, the responsibility lies with me. I take it seriously,” the Japanese news agency Kyodo quoted the prime minister as saying. “I want to fulfil my duties by addressing challenges that cannot be postponed and moving forward with determination.”
Previously, the opposition attacked Shotaro Kishida for using a government car for sightseeing and tourism while on an official visit to Europe and the Americas. At the time, the government said this was a non-issue, as the Prime Minister’s son took photos for PR and operated on his father’s behalf.
The Prime Minister’s adversaries have been quick to use these incidents to prop up accusations of nepotism and attack the character of the ruling party. These are especially tough following the resignation of four cabinet officials due to ties to the controversial Unification Church and financial irregularities.
The head of the Japan Innovation Party suggested that Shotaro Kishida “should have acted with awareness of his position.”
Kenta Izumi, leader of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan and the Prime Minister’s chief rival, said, “The appointment itself had a strong element of intermingling public and private interests. Resignation is only natural.”
Many have questioned the severity of the photos, suggesting them to be in poor taste but otherwise harmless. Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno explained the decision by saying that while the Prime Minister’s residence accommodates the leader and his family, it is a public building for carrying out official business and hosting functions on behalf of the state. The issue largely lies in the fact that Shotaro Kishida posed for the pictures with friends and family at the staircase and other symbolic locations used by Prime Ministers for major events in a manner seen as disrespectful to his and his father’s positions.
While recent Japanese leaders notoriously experience low public approval, Prime Minister Kishida has recently been enjoying heighted approval ratings due to a string of successful policies, strong deterrence towards North Korea and China, and a gracious showing of leadership at the G7 Summit in Hiroshima.