Opening the Diet session Monday, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga asked the public to trust his ability to steer the nation through the pandemic and modernize Japan with his recipe for “the next engine of growth” — carbon neutrality and digitalization — writes Sugiyama.

The public is losing patience with Suga. The disapproval rate for his Cabinet jumped 13% from the previous month to 39.7% in January, while the approval rate declined 9% to 34.2%, a Jiji survey showed Friday. Disapproval topped approval for the first time since the Cabinet was launched.

Suga will need to re-establish his grip on power through effective actions on the coronavirus or risk losing momentum on his key policy goals, writes Sugiyama. Yet in his second Diet policy speech, Suga largely repeated what he said in the first, drawing opposition heckles of “Is this it?”

Japan's PM vows to bring COVID-19 under control | CNA
Japan’s PM vows to bring COVID-19 under control | CNA

News organizations in Japan had a field day last month, calling out ruling party politicians caught violating COVID-19 restrictions, including Suga himself. In his latest Media Mix column, Philip Brasor looks at how politicians have tried to talk themselves out of trouble, with some being better at it than others.

Suga’s predecessor, Shinzo Abe, would fall into the latter camp, notes Brasor. Abe and, by extension, Suga, who was government spokesman under Abe, are currently feeling the heat from not just the ongoing spring party scandal but also the impending indictment of ex-minister Takamori Yoshikawa in another political funding scandal, writes Eric Johnston in a Q&A on the case.

Rubbing salt in the wound, a candidate supported by the ruling bloc lost to an opposition-backed rival in the first of a series of mayoral elections in Okinawa on Sunday. The victor in Miyakojima was also backed by the All Okinawa movement, which opposes the relocation of a U.S. base to Henoko in Nago.