Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Thursday he has decided to step down as chief of his faction in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

The LDP has recently faced criticism amid allegations that five factions, including Kishida's group, underreported their revenue from political fundraising parties, from which the extra income may have been returned to some of their lawmakers as kickbacks.

While Kishida's predecessors typically resigned as leaders of their factions during their terms as prime minister to avoid the appearance of patronage-driven politics, he has retained the position since assuming office in October 2021.

The post of faction chief will be left vacant for the time being, a party source said.

In the wake of the political funds scandal, Kishida instructed LDP executives on Wednesday to refrain from hosting fundraising parties, but there have been increasing calls for him to leave his faction to regain public trust for the ruling party.

The Cabinet's approval ratings have fallen to their lowest levels since Kishida became prime minister, and he was forced this week to deny links to the controversial Unification Church after a Japanese daily reported he had met with senior figures from the organization in 2019.