Inflation is Japan’s political hot potato as election looms

The Star -- Jul 07
The rising cost of living is turning into a thorny political issue ahead of Japan’s upper house election this weekend, as opposition parties peg blame for recent price hikes on Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s policies.

While Kishida’s ruling coalition is set to win a majority, public discontent over inflation may undermine efforts to strengthen his grip on power and phase out the legacy of his predecessors’ economic policies.

Already, rising prices are taking a toll on the strong popularity Kishida had enjoyed since taking office in October, with a poll by public broadcaster NHK on July 4 showing his approval rating at 54%, down from 59% three weeks earlier.

Fuka Sato, a 28-year-old stylist working at a magazine publisher, said she will vote for an opposition party for the first time in her life.

“I feel extremely insecure about the future,” said Sato, who said she eats out less often and gave up buying fruit because it became too expensive.

Soaring commodity costs, fuelled by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, pushed Japan’s consumer inflation above the Bank of Japan’s 2% target for the first time in seven years.

While the rate of inflation is still modest by global comparisons, it has shocked a population that has not experienced steady inflation for decades and hasn’t seen wages rise enough to compensate for the cost of living.

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