Support for Cabinet falls to record low

Poll shows less than 30% back Noda; 40% want Abe as leader


Public support for Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s Cabinet has fallen to a record-low 17.7 percent, down from 29.2 percent in October, while the disapproval rating stands at 66.1 percent, an opinion poll showed Sunday.

Forty percent of those polled think Liberal Democratic Party chief Shinzo Abe would make a more suitable prime minister, and Noda only secured 29.3 percent support.

The nationwide telephone survey was conducted Saturday and Sunday.

The continuing decline in the Cabinet’s popularity is apparently due to the recent resignation of scandal-tainted Justice Minster Keishu Tanaka, as well as the departure of several DPJ Diet members, a development that underscored the prime minister’s weakening political clout.

The plummeting approval rating could prompt Noda to further delay a dissolution of the Lower House, despite pledging to the opposition camp in August that he would do so and call a snap election “soon.”

On the Senkaku Islands flareup, 52.4 percent of those polled urged the government to take a tough stance against China over the Japan-controlled isles, even though this would likely damage economic and cultural exchanges between the two countries.

Meanwhile, 53.2 percent of respondents said they expect nothing of significance from the new political party former Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara intents to create. Ishihara recently resigned as governor to form a “third force” to challenge the ruling Democratic Party of Japan, which is headed by Noda, and the main opposition LDP.

Ishihara, 80, together with his allies in Tachiagare Nippon (Sunrise Party of Japan), a minor opposition party, is currently trying to tie up with Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto’s recently founded Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) to prepare for the next general election.

But Hashimoto appears reluctant to join hands with members from Tachiagare Nippon, clouding the prospects of Ishihara’s plan to return to the Diet.

On other issues covered by the survey, 52.8 percent of those polled said reducing the vote-value disparity between constituencies is the top priority before the next Lower House election, while 35 percent nominated the chamber’s dissolution for a snap election.

Opposition parties, believing an immediate election would greatly increase their presence in the House of Representatives, have repeatedly demanded a dissolution from Noda. But the prime minister has firmly rejected the notion, arguing that passing a government bill to issue deficit-covering bonds and another to correct vote-value disparities should come first.

The game of chicken Noda and the opposition camp are engaged in looks certain to continue, as both sides carefully monitor the electorate’s reaction to the long-running Diet gridlock.

Noda argues that opposition parties should not boycott deliberations on such crucial legislation, and, in a possible sign the impasse could be about to end, LDP President Abe last week hinted the party might be willing to cooperate with the DPJ on the bond bill, apparently fearing a backlash from voters.