THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
June 7, 2022 at 15:02 JST
Opposition parties are attacking the ruling coalition over skyrocketing prices ahead of the summer Upper House election and accusing Prime Minister Fumio Kishida of failing to adequately provide support for struggling consumers.
Although the government has passed a supplementary budget to help counter the rising prices, some lawmakers in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party are growing concerned about a possible backlash from the public.
“I am worried about the price increases,” Tatsuo Fukuda, chairman of the LDP’s General Council, said at a news conference on May 31. “We should provide people with peace of mind.”
LDP Secretary-General Toshimitsu Motegi said at a meeting of the party’s Ehime prefectural chapter in Matsuyama on June 5, “Globally, Japan is not the only country experiencing price increases.”
He added, “We need to thoroughly explain this to local people, too.”
The ruling coalition passed the supplementary budget bill through the Diet to provide subsidies concerning surging oil prices and cash handouts for low-income households with children.
But the price rises, fueled by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, have continued. The higher costs for food have directly hit household accounts.
“We plan to consider measures to prevent price surges from drastically changing people’s dietary habits,” Natsuo Yamaguchi, head of junior coalition partner Komeito, told reporters on June 5.
In an Asahi Shimbun survey conducted in late May, 66 percent of voters said they disapproved of the Kishida administration’s response to the price increases, while 23 percent gave their approval.
One senior LDP official appeared to lament all of the media coverage of the inflation issue.
“If you turn on the television, you’ll find a commentator saying, ‘Prices are increasing,’” the official said.
Opposition lawmakers have used the issue to heighten their criticism of the Kishida administration.
The main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan has named the current situation of stagnating wages and rising prices as “Kishida inflation.”
The CDP has also blasted the supplementary budget as indicative that Kishida is out of touch with the lives of ordinary consumers.
“The current Kishida administration isn’t taking any measures against the price rises of more than 10,000 items,” Kenta Izumi, head of the CDP, told reporters on June 4 while visiting Sendai.
He also took shots at Kishida’s self-proclaimed ability to “listen to the people.”
“People’s lives will not be able to survive against the high cost of living,” Izumi said.
Nobuyuki Baba, co-chair of rising opposition force Nippon Ishin (Japan Innovation Party), criticized the Kishida government’s measures against the price increases, saying the effects are “unclear.”
“It seems to be an election ploy,” he said.
Kazuo Shii, head of the Japanese Communist Party, also said the supplementary budget is “completely insufficient.”
“When people are suffering this much, the government is doing absolutely nothing,” Shii said.
One opposition party, the Democratic Party for the People, voted in favor of the supplementary budget.
DPP chief Yuichiro Tamaki has also shown a certain level of approval of the government’s handling of the price surges.
But he called for more measures.
“I approved the government’s handling of the gasoline price surge. But it is insufficient that the government has not shown prospects for similar measures after autumn,” Tamaki said.
(This article was written by Kazuki Uechi and Tamiyuki Kihara.)
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