Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida scrambled to contain the fallout from a political firestorm engulfing his party, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) by reshuffling his cabinet on 14 Dec 23. The move comes as prosecutors delve into allegations of missing funds within the LDP’s powerful Abe faction, named after the late Shinzo Abe.

Facing plummeting public approval, Kishida replaced key figures like Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno and Industry Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura both hailing from the Abe faction under investigation. Ex-Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi is set to step into Matsuno’s crucial role tasked with coordinating government policy.

The scandal revolves around an estimated 500 million yen ($3.5 million) in missing fundraising proceeds. Prosecutors have already begun questioning lawmakers and plan to scrutinize LDP offices as early as next week. The probe potentially implicates not just the Abe faction, but also Kishida’s own former group casting a wider shadow over the government’s stability.

This comes at a precarious time for Kishida, whose support has nosedived to around 23% , the lowest since he took office in October 2021. LDP’s dominance near-unwavering for decades, is also facing cracks with their approval rating dipping below 30% for the first time since 2012.

While Kishida doesn’t face an election until October 2025, the scandal’s disruptive force throws his future into uncertainty. Analysts warn of potential further resignations and complications surrounding the budget and upcoming foreign trips. The question remains: Can Kishida weather this storm or will the political earthquake topple his leadership?