Japan’s Reconstruction Minister Kenya Akiba tendered his resignation on Tuesday, becoming the fourth minister to leave the cabinet appointed by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in August.
Three other ministers have resigned in close succession due to scandals, some related to funding and links to the Unification Church.
The ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s close ties to the religious group were revealed after the assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and have been cited by opinion polls as a reason for Kishida’s low approval rating.
“I take my responsibility as the appointer (of ministers) very seriously,” Kishida told reporters after confirming Akiba had resigned.
“In assuming my political responsibilities, I hope I am fulfilling my duties as prime minister,” he said.
Opposition parties have accused Akiba of involvement in electoral law violations and ties to the Unification Church, although Akiba has denied any wrongdoing.
“There was nothing I did that violated the law,” Akiba told reporters gathered at the prime minister’s office after handing in his resignation to Kishida.
“It was a difficult decision to make, but I submitted my resignation to the Prime Minister because I felt that I should not hinder the debates in parliament,” he added.
Akiba will be replaced by former reconstruction minister Hiromichi Watanabe, Kishida said.
Kishida said Mio Sugita, Parliamentary Vice Minister of Internal Affairs, had also tendered her resignation.
In early December, Sugita retracted and apologized for a series of past comments, including calling sexual minorities “unproductive.”
Speculation has grown that Kishida plans to reshuffle his cabinet early next month to boost his low popularity, with the Sankei newspaper reporting on Friday that some members of the ruling party have floated January 10 as a possible date. .
Kishida did not rule out a reshuffle, but played down the possibility that it could happen in the next week or two.
“I’m not saying I’ll never consider a cabinet reshuffle, I’m just saying I’m not considering one over the New Year holidays,” he said.