The public approval rating for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Cabinet has taken a 9.1-point plunge since June and now stands at 35.8 percent — the lowest since he took office in December 2012, a poll conducted by Kyodo News showed Sunday.
According to the poll, 77.8 percent of respondents were not convinced by the government’s denials that Abe used his influence to get a new veterinary department approved at a university run by Kake Gakuen, an institution headed by his close friend, by interfering in the administrative process. Only 15.4 percent said they were satisfied by the explanations.
As for Abe retaining Defense Minister Tomomi Inada, who broke the ethical separation of military and state, 73.1 percent said the decision was inappropriate and 21.8 percent backed it. Inada has come under fire since implying the Self-Defense Forces would back a candidate from Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party during the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly election.
The poll said 57.0 percent do not expect much from the Cabinet and LDP leadership reshuffle Abe plans for next month, while 41.0 percent have expectations.
In the meantime, 54.8 percent said they will oppose any constitutional revisions made by the Abe administration and 32.6 percent said they will support them.
Abe has told his LDP to submit a draft to amend the Constitution, including war-renouncing Article 9, to the Diet by the end of the extra session expected this fall, but some senior members have questioned the plan.
The telephone survey, conducted Saturday and Sunday, covered 1,809 randomly selected landline and mobile phone numbers registered to eligible voters nationwide and drew valid responses from 1,015 people.
The Kake Gakuen affair has been dogging Abe ever since the leaked education documents behind them emerged around spring.
Abe and his aides have been accused of using the prime minister’s influence to sway the decision-making process in favor of Okayama University of Science in Imabari, Ehime Prefecture, as part of a state-led deregulation project.
The Kake Gakuen scandal is said to be a major factor in the Abe’s fall in the opinion polls. Kihei Maekawa, a whistleblower in the Kake Gakuen affair who was formerly vice education minister, blasted state officials in unsworn testimony in the Diet on July 10.
Calls for a clearer explanation prompted the ruling Liberal Democratic Party to consider joining another Diet session this month with Abe and his close aide, Hiroto Izumi, in attendance. Izumi allegedly played a key role in approving Kake Gakuen’s application.