New Cabinet scores 64.4% support rate

Shutting out Ozawa's allies pays dividends, survey indicates

Kyodo News

The reshuffled Cabinet of Prime Minister Naoto Kan drew a support rating of 64.4 percent in a Kyodo News survey released Saturday.

Kan packed his team with nearly a dozen new ministers who had distanced themselves from ruling party power broker Ichiro Ozawa.

The rating, up 9.7 percentage points from a survey conducted a week ago shortly before Kan defeated Ozawa in the Democratic Party of Japan leadership election, is the highest rating since Kan took over from Yukio Hatoyama in early June.

The high for Kan’s previous Cabinet was 61.5 percent soon after it was inaugurated.

The Cabinet’s disapproval rate stood at 21.2 percent, compared with 31.5 percent last week.

The latest poll, carried out immediately after the new Cabinet was launched Friday, covered 1,450 households with eligible voters randomly selected nationwide. Valid responses were received from 1,017 individuals.

In the poll, 67.1 percent said they backed Kan’s selection of new ministers and top party leaders from outside the group of lawmakers loyal to Ozawa.

Of the respondents, 70.2 percent said they had high expectations for Katsuya Okada, who switched from foreign minister to the DPJ’s No. 2 post of secretary general and is considered a key figure among the party’s members who aren’t ardent supporters of Ozawa.

Nearly half of the people polled — 49. 1 percent — said they want the next election for the Lower House to be held in 2013, when its members’ current terms expire.

The figure apparently reflects a desire among voters for Kan to remain as prime minister in the years ahead so he can tackle the problems facing Japan, including the yen’s appreciation which has hurt the country’s export-driven economy.

On whether to raise the consumption tax rate from 5 percent, 41.2 percent voiced opposition but 55.7 percent expressed approval, including those who responded “not very willingly.”

Ozawa grilled again

Prosecutors on Saturday afternoon questioned Ichiro Ozawa for the fourth time on a voluntary basis over alleged false financial reporting by his political fund management body, informed sources said.

The 68-year-old veteran lawmaker again denied any involvement during three hours of questioning that started around 4 p.m. at a hotel in Tokyo, according to his aides.

Ozawa issued a statement following the questioning, saying he explained to the prosecutors once again that the allegations against him were groundless, while adding that he would be willing to provide further explanations to that effect.

“The prosecutors in charge asked me further questions about what I had told them during past questioning concerning the accusation, and I straightforwardly said based on my recollection that there is no truth to the suspicions against me.”