The ruling Liberal Democratic Party may lose three seats in the House of Representatives in by-elections next Sunday, a Kyodo News survey showed, possibly taking further toll on the already unpopular Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.

The by-elections will take place as the LDP, headed by Kishida, has come under intense scrutiny after some of its factions neglected to report portions of their income from fundraising parties and accumulated slush funds for years for their members.

In the upcoming vote, one seat is up for grabs in an electoral district in Tokyo, as well as one each in Shimane and Nagasaki prefectures. These seats were previously held by the LDP with mainly conservative support before becoming vacant.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida makes a stump speech for a candidate backed by his ruling Liberal Democratic Party in Okuizumo in Shimane Prefecture, western Japan, on April 21, 2024, ahead of House of Representatives by-elections on April 28. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

Facing headwinds following the scandal, the LDP has decided not to field candidates in the Tokyo No. 15 and Nagasaki No. 3 districts, concentrating on defending the seat in the Shimane No. 1 district of the western prefecture, known as a conservative stronghold.

But Kyodo News learned that LDP candidate Norimasa Nishikori, a former Finance Ministry bureaucrat, has fallen behind Akiko Kamei, a former lower house lawmaker of the leading opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan.

Also in the Tokyo and Nagasaki constituencies, candidates of the main opposition party are expected to win, based on the analysis by Kyodo News through telephone surveys and in-person interviews over two days from Saturday.

Failure to secure victory in Shimane as the sole seat being contested by the ruling party could erode Kishida's political footing and prompt LDP lawmakers to try to oust him from power before the next general election, thwarting his ambition to be reelected as its leader in its presidential race around September.

Approval ratings for Kishida's Cabinet have plunged to their lowest levels since it was launched in October 2021, sliding far below 30 percent, a threshold widely recognized as the "danger level" for a government.

On Sunday, Kishida said during an election campaign speech in Shimane, "Right now, the LDP faces harsh criticism" from the public, adding, "I will take the lead in restoring trust in politics and proceed with political reforms responsibly."

A week before the by-elections, CDPJ chief Kenta Izumi also said in his speech to an audience in Shimane on the same day, "Please give your support to us to change politics together," while criticizing the latest political funds scandal.

The Kyodo News survey of the three districts showed that more than 60 percent of respondents answered that they will decide which party to vote for "in consideration of" the slush funds scandal that was revealed late last year, forcing several ministers and LDP executives to resign.

The Shimane by-election follows the death of former lower house speaker and LDP heavyweight Hiroyuki Hosoda in November, while the one in Nagasaki is to replace an LDP lawmaker who stepped down as a parliamentarian in January over the scandal.

The Tokyo by-election was called due to a separate scandal involving a former LDP lawmaker convicted of a campaign finance offense related to a mayoral election in April 2023.

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