Spate of scandals, gaffes push Abe Cabinet support rate down 7 points to 46.7%

Kyodo, JIJI

The support rate for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Cabinet has tumbled 7 points to 46.7 percent, according to a telephone survey conducted Saturday and Sunday by Kyodo News.

The drop from last month’s survey reflects the fallout from scandals and gaffes recently committed by members of his Cabinet and the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, which he heads.

According to the survey, which covered 1,454 households and drew responses from 1,015 people, 77.7 percent said officials in the government and ruling bloc are derelict in their duties. This helped raise the Cabinet’s disapproval rate to 38.9 percent from 35.3 percent in late January.

In an unusual shift, however, 38.1 percent of the respondents said the new security laws enacted last year should be scrapped, versus 47.0 percent who disagreed. The contentious laws, which expand the types of missions that can be taken by the Self-Defense Forces, take effect on March 29. The opposition parties have submitted bills to scrap them.

Abe’s point man on the economy, Akira Amari, quit as economic and fiscal policy minister on Jan. 28 to take responsibility for graft allegations leveled against both him and his aides.

On Feb. 12, the LDP’s Kensuke Miyazaki, who had vowed to become the first lawmaker in Japan to take paternity leave, resigned after admitting to an having an affair while his wife, a fellow LDP Diet member, was pregnant.

Of the respondents, 85.6 percent said Miyazaki’s resignation was “a matter of course.”

Asked about Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Sanae Takaichi’s warning that TV stations can be ordered to suspend operations for three months if they repeatedly present politically biased content in violation of Article 174 of the Broadcast Law, 67.4 percent said the remarks threatened media freedom.

Article 174 states that the internal affairs minister is authorized to suspend broadcasting that violates the law, including that which fails to remain politically neutral.

As for the Bank of Japan’s adoption of a negative interest rate last week, 82.2 percent said they did not expect the measure to shore up the economy.

About new sanctions Japan plans to level against North Korea for conducting its fourth nuclear test and a rocket launch, 73.8 percent expressed support.

Support was also high for a panel proposal to shrinking the House of Representatives by 10 seats to 465, with 50.6 percent saying it should be reduced for the next election.

On the possible merger of the opposition Democratic Party of Japan with Ishin no To (Japan Innovation Party), 65.9 percent said there is no need to merge and 20.9 percent said they should.

Support for Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party meanwhile fell to 38.1 percent, down 4.0 points, while backing for the DPJ, the main opposition force, came to 9.3 percent, nearly unchanged.

Swing voters who don’t support a particular party were polled at 35.5 percent, up from 33.3 percent.

On Sunday, Abe visited disaster-hit Miyagi Prefecture ahead of the fifth anniversary of the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami that heavily damaged the Tohoku region on March 11, 2011.

In Ishinomaki, Abe visited a large municipal housing complex for residents displaced by the disaster. At a local event where sushi was being made, the prime minister said he would “work even harder” for the victims. He last visited Miyagi in July.