The approval rating for Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida's Cabinet has fallen 4.4 percentage points to a fresh low of 20.1 percent, a Kyodo News survey showed Sunday, with a political funds scandal rattling his ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

The poll also showed 91.4 percent believe LDP lawmakers involved in the funds scandal have not fulfilled their accountability, even though five of them, including Kishida, attended a session of the parliamentary political ethics committee for two days from Feb. 29.

Kishida's LDP has come under scrutiny amid allegations that some of its factions, such as the largest one formerly led by the late Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, neglected to report portions of their incomes from fundraising parties and created slush funds for years.

The five LDP lawmakers have been criticized for having failed to provide adequate explanations at the televised hearings of the House of Representatives ethics panel about why slush funds were generated and how they were used.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida (standing) speaks during a parliamentary session in Tokyo on Jan. 29, 2024. (Kyodo)

So far, prosecutors have indicted or issued summary indictments to 10 individuals belonging to three factions, but executives of the groups have not faced criminal charges due to a lack of evidence. The three factions have decided to disband over the scandal.

The support rate for the LDP has fallen to 24.5 percent, its lowest level since December 2012, when the party scored a landslide victory in the general election to return to power, while the disapproval rating for Kishida's Cabinet has risen to 64.4 percent, the survey showed.

The approval rating for Kishida's Cabinet, launched in October 2021, hit an all-time low in December 2023 at 22.3 percent, dropping below what is widely seen as the "danger level" of 30 percent.

The latest poll also shows 77.3 percent of respondents believe that severe punishment is necessary against executives of the Abe faction and the one headed by former LDP Secretary General Toshihiro Nikai, which were at the center of the funds scandal.

The survey, meanwhile, showed 87.9 percent do not feel that Japan's economy has improved, although the country's benchmark 225-issue Nikkei Stock Average late last month exceeded its previous peak level of 38,915.87, recorded in December 1989.

Earlier this month, the Nikkei ended at a fresh closing high above the 40,000 mark, as the sharp depreciation of the yen has pushed up the profitability of the nation's exporters, regarded as a key driver of economic growth.

But Japan lost its status as the world's third-biggest economy to Germany in 2023 and unexpectedly slipped into recession in the final quarter of last year, with price hikes and sluggish wage growth undermining consumer sentiment.

In 2023, Japan's core consumer prices, excluding volatile fresh food items, surged 3.1 percent, marking the fastest pace of increase in 41 years.

As for Japan's possible exports of next-generation fighter jets to be co-developed with Britain and Italy, 44.7 percent said they should never be allowed, but 48.1 percent answered they should be permitted if the country limits the destinations of the shipments.

To promote new fighter jet exports to third nations, the Japanese government relaxed the country's strict rules for defense equipment transfers long maintained under its war-renouncing Constitution late last year.

By political party, support for the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan has risen to 10.1 percent from 9.0 percent, while that of the Japan Innovation Party has decreased to 8.9 percent from 9.4 percent.

No other opposition parties than the CDPJ had a support rate above 10 percent despite the slush funds scandal eroding public trust in the LDP. Respondents who said they support no particular party affiliation climbed to 31.3 percent from 28.5 percent.

The survey called 507 randomly selected households with eligible voters and 2,129 mobile phone numbers. It yielded responses from 426 household members and 617 mobile phone users.

Some parts of Ishikawa Prefecture affected by the Noto Peninsula earthquake on the New Year's Day were excluded from the survey.

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Ex-PM Abe proposed his faction end slush fund practice: lawmakers