|The Growing Crisis of the SUGA Administration?|
On January 6, 2021, Prime Minister SUGA declared a second state of emergency for 11 prefectures including Tokyo, due to a sharp increase of novel coronavirus infections. Last December, the government requested people to refrain from going outside unless it is absolutely necessary or urgent. However, from the end of 2020 to the beginning of 2021, large crowds were seen nationwide, especially in urban areas such as Tokyo Metropolitan, Osaka City and Nagoya City.
The opposition parties started condemning the SUGA administration by saying that it was too late to declare the state of emergency. Surely, the number of coronavirus infections in Tokyo per day in early January continued to exceed 2,000, and as a result, beds for COVID-19 patients became scarce.
With the second state of emergency, the government requested restaurants and bars to close by 8 p.m., promising to pay \60,000 per day to every shop that cooperates. Moreover, the government is set to provide \400,000 to companies that deal with restaurants and bars, in cases where their sales decreased by half compared to the previous year.
Under such a tense atmosphere, we got breaking news. It was reported that two Diet members from the LDP and KOMEITO respectively, visited hostess bars in the Ginza district of Tokyo late into the night, despite the state of emergency order.
MATSUMOTO Jun , the acting chairman of the LDPfs Diet Affairs Committee, and TOYAMA Kiyohiko, the acting Secretary General of the KOMEITO both admitted visiting such bars.
Furthermore, it was revealed that TOYAMA used his political fund for settling his hostess barfs payment. Not only concerning these two but the LDP and the KOMEITO parties came under fire.
As a consequence, MATSUMOTO was forced to leave the LDP, and TOYAMA resigned his seat. Ethics are the bedrock for political parties, especially for the KOMEITO. Prime Minister SUGA himself was criticized for participating in two dinner gatherings last December while the government requested people to refrain from eating in large groups. The approval rate for the SUGA Cabinet has declined to 38% and the disapproval rate has risen to 43%.
How should we overcome these difficulties? First, we need to secure medical care for Covid-19 patients. Secondly, whether the human race can control the novel coronavirus depends on vaccinations. The Japanese government is set to approve the vaccine from U.S. pharmaceutical company Pfizer in mid-February and start inoculations from 3.7 million medical staff, then for approximately 36 million elderly people. In order for inoculations to succeed, it is important that the government and municipalities closely collaborate with each other.
Under the state of emergency, many people are suffering from the severe economic condition. The KOMEITO proposed various measures to support these people to the government.
Nevertheless, according to a tabloid magazine, it was revealed that Prime Minister SUGAfs son who belongs to a media company entertained several high ranking government officials from the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications. This matter is suspected to be illegal in light of broadcasting laws.
The SUGA administration and the ruling parties face a crucial crisis in the weeks and months ahead.
By Yuzuru Takeuchi