National / Politics

Abe Cabinet's public approval rating jumps to 53.5%

Kyodo

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s first Cabinet since the Dec. 14 snap election scored an approval rating of 53.5 percent, compared with 46.9 percent in the poll conducted shortly after the election, a Kyodo News survey showed Thursday.

In a nationwide telephone survey conducted Wednesday and Thursday, 34.9 percent said they disapproved of the Cabinet, which remains intact except for the defense minister, down from 45.3 percent in the Dec. 15 to 16 survey.

When asked about Abe’s plan to submit bills to the Diet to legalize Japan’s use of the right to collective self-defense, 54.3 percent of the respondents said the government should take its time before doing so.

In the survey, 24.3 percent said they support preparing the legal basis for security policy changes and 14.3 percent said they did not.

The legislative work is necessary because the previous Cabinet is reinterpreting the pacifist Constitution to say that collective self-defense, or coming to the aid of an ally under armed attack even when Japan itself is not, falls within “the minimum” use of force needed for Japan to defend itself under the charter. The public remains divided over the sensitive issue.

Abe was re-elected prime minister Wednesday after a convincing Dec. 14 Lower House election victory that was marred by the lowest voter turnout on record, prompting him to claim a fresh mandate.

Abe instructed new Defense Minister Gen Nakatani, who also oversees security legislation, to ensure “seamless” responses to security threats around the country.

The election was called after Abe decided to postpone the second stage of the consumption tax hike to 10 percent until 2017, and seek voter support for his “Abenomics” policies to bolster the deflation-hit economy.

In the survey, 78.4 percent of the respondents said they supported the introduction of lower rates on daily necessities when the tax is finally doubled to 10 percent. The proposal was made by Komeito, its junior coalition partner.

Since taking office in 2012, Abe has repeatedly said the economy was his priority, given that a strong economy is a prerequisite for raising Japan’s profile in diplomacy and security.

The survey was conducted by calling 1,441 randomly selected households with eligible voters, and drew valid responses from 1,014.

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