• Kyodo News


The reshuffled Cabinet of Prime Minister Naoto Kan received a support rating of 32.2 percent in a survey released Saturday, up 8.6 points from the previous poll in late December.

In a nationwide telephone survey conducted Friday and Saturday, 54.3 percent of respondents supported a consumption tax hike, compared with 43.3 percent who opposed an increase, while 56.9 percent said Japan should join a trans-Pacific free-trade agreement, far exceeding the 25.4 percent who did not support the deal.

As for Democratic Party of Japan kingpin Ichiro Ozawa, who is to be indicted possibly later this month over a political funds scandal, 58.7 percent called on the former party chief to resign as a lawmaker and 22.4 percent said he should quit the party.

The survey, conducted after Kan reshuffled his Cabinet on Friday, showed 22.7 percent backing for the DPJ, up from 20.6 percent in the previous poll, while the support rate for the Liberal Democratic Party, the largest opposition party, edged down to 24.1 percent from 24.6 percent.

The survey covered 1,451 randomly selected households with eligible voters, and valid responses were received from 1,038 individuals.

In the Cabinet shakeup, Kan recruited fiscally conservative veteran lawmakers, apparently demonstrating his resolve to promote fiscal reform. However, the move also fueled speculation that his government is embarking on a drive to raise the consumption tax rate from the current 5 percent.

Under the revamped Cabinet, Kan is also expected to accelerate discussions on whether Japan should join the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, a multilateral free-trade initiative backed by the United States.

According to the survey, 55.2 percent supported the replacement of Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku, who was hit with a nonbinding censure motion in November in the opposition-controlled House of Councilors, while 32.8 percent said they did not support the move.

The survey showed 44.9 percent have high expectations of Kaoru Yosano, a veteran lawmaker and fiscal conservative who was appointed in the reshuffle as economic and fiscal policy minister after leaving Tachiagare Nippon (Sunrise Party of Japan), a tiny opposition party. Those who said they did not have high expectations for Yosano totaled 48.2 percent.

Meanwhile, 35.4 percent of those surveyed said they thought the House of Representatives should be dissolved during the 150-day ordinary Diet session, which is scheduled to convene Jan. 24, and a general election held by the summer.

In response to a multiple-choice question about the priorities of the new Cabinet, 53.3 percent said it should prioritize steps to improve the economy and employment, while 35.1 percent favored reforms to the nation’s social security system and 15.5 percent chose fiscal reconstruction.

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